Photography as Pedagogy

The Extreme Ice Survey is the most wide-ranging glacier study ever conducted using ground-based, real-time photography. EIS uses time-lapse photography, conventional photography, and video to document the rapid changes now occuring on the Earth’s glacial ice. The EIS team has installed 27 time-lapse cameras at 15 sites in Greenland, Iceland, Alaska, and the Rocky Mountains. EIS supplements this ongoing record with annual repeat photography in Iceland, the Alps, and Bolivia.

What is the Extreme Ice Survey?

In the early 1960s the ‘big blue marble’ photos of Earth from space completely changed our view of our planet and its ecosystem. The “our” is meant to be as inclusive as possible because it was the image itself– translated everywhere into media as varied as films and t-shirts– that made the point. Our modern environmental consciousness began with that image.

It was a wonderfully effective, didactic image: we are all one world, we are a small corner of a very big universe. Since then, there have been an entire range of other images that might be said to be equally potent, or at least to reinforce the point. I’ve always loved the images of the Earth from the moon, and the deep space images from the Hubble Telescope are breathtaking.

The Extreme Ice images are more difficult, and too complex for easy translations, but I think they will play an equally important role in the maturation of human environmental awareness. They are complex because they are both utterly beautiful and, at the same time, a damning, even shocking indictment of myopia. This is the first clear vision we have of our future.

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol]

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