Magazine article Earth Island Journal

Portrait of a Landscape

Magazine article Earth Island Journal

Portrait of a Landscape

Article excerpt

Photographer Camille Seaman found her passion thanks to a fluke. She was 29 years old, on an Alaska Airlines flight from Oakland to Los Angeles, when she volunteered to give up her seat on the overbooked plane in exchange for a free ticket anywhere the airline flew. She chose Kotzebue, Alaska (mostly just because she liked the name), a village on the shores of the Chukchi Sea. It was there that she fell in love with the stark beauty of the polar regions and committed herself to using her art to communicate the wonder of those icy landscapes.

During the following decade, Seaman, now 44, traveled to the Ross Sea in Antarctica, to Greenland, and to Norway's Svalbard archipelago to document the fragile beauty of these areas and to show how they are being impacted by global climate change. Most often she trained her camera on the icebergs she encountered, which she found mesmerizing.

Seaman's lustrous photos of icebergs have a heroic grandeur to them and, at the same time, a kind of intimacy. Seaman says that she came to think of the icebergs as individuals, each one of them unique in its color, shape, size, and lifespan. They are, she says, "stoic, glowing masses of time and experience." She prefers to describe her iceberg pictures, not as landscape photojournalism, but rather as portraiture.

Seaman's most recent project, which she calls "The Big Cloud," took her to the Great Plains to capture massive tornados called "supercefls." Her shots have a powerful dynamism; you can almost feel the wind whipping about. …

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