|Antarctica: Journey to the Extreme
Antarctica, the white continent, is the harshest, coldest, windiest, driest, most mountainous place on earth... truly a land of extremes.
It is roughly the size of the United States and Canada, combined. Ice covers the continent with a mile-thick icy blanket. Ice shelves that exceed the coastlines grow out into the surrounding oceans. These shelves can be a mile thick and two and 1/2 miles deep. Only 2% of its land is visible as mountain peaks and along the coastline.
The lowest temperature on record (as of research for the debut of my exhibition at the New York Hall of Science in 2006), -129.3 F degrees, was taken on the inland ice cap. Winds can reach a ferocious velocity of more than 150 mph. By definition, Antarctica qualifies as desert, as the rainfall of the Sahara Desert is comparable. Topographically, Antarctica is also the most mountainous of all the continents.
Considering these superlatives, it is important to note the extreme climatic diversity of Antarctica, as some areas can be quite calm and some areas can receive a lot of rainfall. We never experienced darkness as we were there during the Antarctic summer; but Antarctic winters are cloaked in darkness. Temperatures were so mild on one day during our journey that we dressed in tee shirts and sweatshirts and enjoyed a barbeque on the ship deck. Throughout most of our trip, however, the temperatures were similar to cold January days in New York.
Nowhere on Earth have I traveled, where I discovered a greater clarity and purity of light than in Antarctica. For two magical weeks my camera and eye danced in unison as I documented, simultaneously, the beauty and fragility of our planet. Here, I have captured nature at its most pristine.
A personal urgency propelled me to be in this extreme location to mark the arrival of the year 2000. As a young child I imagined the continent at the bottom of the globe as distant and dark. I got the distance right.
The journey was long. An 11½ hour flight from New York JFK Airport to Santiago, Chile was eventually followed by a 4 ½ hour flight to Ushuaia, Argentina, at the tip of South America, where we boarded our 50-passenger double steel-hulled ice-breaker and set sail for the ultimate destination, Antarctica. Our first stop was the Falkland Islands.
After a few days of exploration in the Falkland Islands, where these rockhopper penguins were photographed, we said good-bye to land and gardens and civilization, as we knew it. The turbulent crossing of the Antarctic Convergence definitively indicated that we were pushing the limits of earthly location.
As we approached Antarctica floating chunks of ice calmed the rough seas.
The pursuit of adorable and amusing penguins, I thought, would be the main focus of my picture taking. Very quickly into the trip, however, they became upstaged by the visual splendor of the Antarctic landscape of which I am still daunted.
Antarctica: Journey to the Extreme is a body of images on many levels. From the aesthetic standpoint it is a visual choreography between artist and light. Scientifically, it is a documentation of the beauty and fragility of our planet... but it is much more than geographical record shots.
It is portraiture, close up encounters with icebergs as well as the jaunty penguins that inhabit the region.
Environmentally, these images convey the implications of global warming.
More than ninety percent of the world's glacial ice is in Antarctica and it is melting at an alarming rate. Global warming is a real threat and we do not see it or really comprehend its seriousness because Antarctica is so far beyond our daily sphere of living.
Air content is measured here and this is the place where the hole in the ozone layer was discovered. Pollution from the Northern Hemisphere has steadily drifted southward to significantly increase contamination to the air in Antarctica and based on past performance, this amount of carbon dioxide will be doubled in the next 100 years.
My images bring Antarctica home. Most people will never cross the Antarctic Convergence or the Drake Passage yet the preservation of this remote region impacts on the ecological well-being of the entire world.
Global-warming is a real threat and we do not see it. Over the past twenty years, the annual ice-melting season in the Antarctic Peninsula has increased by two to three weeks. In the past twenty-five years the Adèlie penguin population has declined, substantially, due to the loss of sea ice habitat! A similar trend has occurred with the polar bear in the Arctic.
The amount of carbon dioxide in the air down here will double by the end of this century if we continue to burn fossil fuels the way we are presently doing.
Way back at the close of 1999, I packed up two Canon A2 bodies, the 28-135 and the 75-300 Canon lenses, polarizer filters, lots of batteries and plastic bags and 50 rolls of slide and print film. Specifically selected to meet the challenge of unpredictable shooting conditions, I brought lots of Kodak Ektachrome 100 Plus Professional slide film and Kodak Gold 100 and 200 print film. Little did I know that upon my return, my master-printer would choose the glossy Kodak Metallic paper to traditionally wet-darkroom print my Antarctica images ...or that Kodak would eventually choose to showcase my photography.
Today, I make images digitally as well as traditionally and continue to use and love Kodak film and paper. Endura Metallic glossy is a favorite for digital printing. I shoot from the heart and hope my images make a difference.
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Holly Gordon is a working photographer coming from a fine arts background, and holds a master's degree from New York University. Her photography studio is the world of nature, taking her to all corners of the earth, from the rain forests of Central America, the Galapagos Islands, Antarctica and East Asia. Exhibited widely, including shows at the American Museum of Natural History in NYC and Denise Bibro Fine Art in Chelsea, Manhattan her work has also appeared in published form in Shutterbug Magazine, New York Newsday and dozens of other media channels. Holly has two traveling exhibits - Antarctica: Journey to the Extreme and Galapagos: Face to Face in circulation.
Kodak showcases her work on their professional site Kodak Professional and National Wildlife Federation has selected her Adelie Penguin on Ice (in this article)as a first place winner in the global warming category of their annual competition. It can be viewed with other winning images at National Wildlife Magazine
Antarctica: Journey to the Extreme will be exhibited at fotofoto gallery, 372 New York Avenue, Huntington, NY from April 9 - May 16. Please check www.fotofotogallery.com for details.
Visit Holly Gordon Photographer to see more of her work, exhibitions and slide programs.
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