Ice Fields

'The famed glaciers of Alaska are the subject of many photographs, most of them taken on a guided tour or from a cruise ship, or by tourists hiking just off the highway.  Few people photograph glaciers as Eamon Mac Mahon does, out the side of a single-engine bush plane, sometimes setting out to a particular destination, other times coming across them, as he describes it, "by accident, on a shortcut to somewhere else" in the frozen wilderness.

Mac Mahon shows us details of a landscape filled with ice, its textures and patterns revealling ongoing movement and transformation.  At first, some of the photographs seem abstract, but each one shows the progress of thousands of tons of compressed snow and ice.  It's a barren and forbidding world, home only to some algae and mysterious ice worms, so strange they were only recently proven to be more than a myth.  Mac Mahon's images are a split-second view of something slow and ancient, something seemingly motionless but, in fact, always inching through the landscape.  In their glacial depths they store a history of the world's climate, a story that's also written on their surfaces, in their textures, colours and their recent rapid retreat.

The earth's glaciers, the largest store of fresh water on the planet, are melting at faster than normal speeds, and whether it is part of their natural process or caused by human activity is the topic of much debate.  In the last century, entire lakes have appeared where ice fields once were.  the implications of the loss of glaciers are wide ranging, from rising sea levels to changes in habitat for salmon and krill, to reduced meltwater for hydroelectric power.

While Mac Mahon doesn't provide documentary evidence of this erosion, he instead travels to the heart of the subject capturing images that you won't find in a thousand photo albums.  These glaciers are the essence of the North and are part of an ecosystem whose loss will greatly impact the world.'

 

Excerpt from an article by Catherine Dean, appearing in Magenta Magazine, 2007.

 

This series was nominated for the 2008 Prix Pictet.


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