by Jennifer Sahn
It’s a stark landscape, windswept and white, looming in the low reaches—the underside of the Earth. There are highlights in the austral springtime, a radiant blue sky, a Popsicle blue iceberg, a patch of grass, a tuft of plumage. But most of the bodies—and there are many bodies—tend toward taupe, charcoal, or the polar opposites of black and white. They are somewhat comical creatures, occupying a favored niche in our imaginations: king penguin, elephant seal, fur seal, Arctic tern. We see them mostly on nature calendars, greeting cards, motivational posters, and financial appeals from conservation organizations.
The majority of us will never go; of those that do, most will never go ashore. In November and December of 2009, Dan Mead and Sally Eagle set foot on the Falkland Islands, South Georgia Island, and the legendary reaches of Antarctica itself. They spent twenty-four days laboring to capture the dramatic landscape and its endearing wildlife, to convey a sense for the character and scale of these places and species, so that we may feel some semblance of what it’s like to experience them. Here are honest portraits from a husband-and-wife team who, with this project, celebrate their seventh continent visited and photographed together.
Though some of these images present familiar postures—poses even—any anthropomorphizing rests solely in the mind of the viewer, for the animals of Antarctica are certainly not imitating us. They are their own masters, answering to something much larger than an interloping group of human beings armed with cameras and tripods. To deliver such striking portraits, Mead and Eagle logged many hours watching, following, and learning from these animals that live their lives on the edge. And not just the edge of a continent, but the brink, for, in a trope that will sound all too familiar by now, their habitats, food sources, and the very ice that defines their lives are endangered.
If we find the penguins charming, the seals sweet, the icebergs stunning, then we must hope beyond hope that these images, among others, will convince all those who will never visit these out-of-the-way places that we must not let their ecosystems unravel. Dan Mead and Sally Eagle did not intend for this show to be a photographic elegy, but, rather, a celebration of the great diversity of life to be found at the underside of the Earth.
This large format exhibit has 24 framed prints (20”x30”) taken in the Falklands, South Georgia and the Antarctic Peninsula. It depicts the extensive biodiversity, as well as the impact of climate change and human activity in the area.
Click on any image to enlarge.