Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Inspiration: Chasing Ice & Passionate People.

Fláajökull #iceland #glacier Saw this today and fell in love.
Fláajökull Glacier in Iceland - a photo from my recent trip this past June

Tonight I was incredibly moved, inspired and shaken by a documentary called Chasing Ice.

For my birthday, Francesca (artist & Light Grey Art Lab coordinator) bought me a very special book. Ice, by James Balog, was one of the most amazing books I'd seen in a long time - with it's incredible photos of icy landscapes, terrifying crevasses, and ghostly pale hues. There are few moments in my life when I've been so captivated by a book that I've forgotten time, paused, and obsessed the way I did with this book.

Glacier in Iceland by Lindsay Nohl
Solheimajokull Glacier, Iceland - my piece for the Macro & Micro show this past spring.

Glaciers were the fuel when creating my piece on the Solheimajokull Glacier for the Macro & Micro exhibition, and a huge inspiration for our trip to Iceland this past June.
I find it incredible that after all of the passive-agressive comments I've made about the weather in Minnesota -- that I find myself absolutely consumed by a fervent need to learn more, watch more, see more ice.

Here is what it looks like to stand on the edge of a cliff -looking at a glacier that is 200 feet below. Its impossible to describe how small it made me feel. #iceland #glacier
A photo of the Vatnajökull glacier- from where I stood.

Have you ever been so obsessed with something that you ache to see it again? Where everything reminds you of that thing. You scour every resource you have to know it better, to capture it, and to envelop it - somehow take it in through your pores and become that thing.

There was a moment when I was standing against the wet face of a mountain looking over one of the feet of the Vatnajökull glacier. It was raining and there was a ceiling of mist just barely above where I stood. 100 feet below me, the glacial ice ground into the mountainside. It looked like a grey, dirt-speckled rubberband that had been left in the sun to dry. Brittle, covered in cracks and points. Stretched and pinched by contours of the mountains surrounding it, and I could hear it groaning. Somewhere in the distance I could hear ice calving off into the lagoon beneath it. Then there was silence.

I watched the very edge of the glacier - where it was rough and jagged. I waited.

The water here is incredibly blue. #Jökulsárlón #iceland

I remember at one point seeing a large block of ice crack off and plummet into the lagoon, where it slowly bobbed up, and twisted. It tipped and turned. The lagoon swelled around the edges of this new iceberg. Everything was in slow motion - the surreal slow-motion that insanely large objects have as they move. I recognized it from battle scenes in movies between giant beasts. It was the same slow-motion as watching an old building being demolished. It slowly falls. Time is somehow different in those moments.

Misty #glacier and icebergs floating
Another foot of the Vatnajökull Glacier, Iceland

I have never felt so small in my life. I had also never felt so vulnerable. It's hard to put to words the cycle of emotions I had while I stood there. Euphoria replaced by exhilaration, then a rush of profound sadness.


I wanted to write about this because today I felt the same ache as I watched this documentary. It reminded me of the feeling I had as I stood on the side of that mountain. It also reminded me of how rare these moments can be, when we're so absorbed in something that you forget everything else. That all of the white-noise that's usually in the background of your brain switches off for a moment and you have complete clarity that you absolutely love something and that you wish you could share this moment with everyone.

As I watched Chasing Ice, and National Geographic photographer, James Balog's quest to document glaciers around the globe I teared up. If there's something I'm a complete sucker for is seeing such passionate people pursue the things most important to them. With four knee surgeries under his belt, and plenty of reasons not risk his health (or life!) - I was emboldened by watching what he's done with his project. In 2007, after returning from a photography assignment for National Geographic he was inspired to put together a project that would document the change of glaciers all over the world. With 25 time-lapse cameras, he set out to install stations in Iceland, Greenland, Alaska and Montana (USA) that would capture a living picture of how glaciers act.

Here is a short TED talk with James Balog - showing some of his research

Incredibly, he was able, after many attempts (some of which were heart-breakingly dissappointing) he finally captured an incredible amount of footage of exactly how glaciers were behaving. His findings show massive changes to the shape and density of glaciers and through his documentation, he and his team have begun speaking about, documenting and watching the glaciers even more fervently. His efforts have yielded an incredible amount of artistic and scientific work. And still, they keep going. This is the never-ending cycle of obsession.

The more you learn, the more you realize there is so much MORE to learn.

This post is not just about reminiscing about my trip - nor is it just to recommend a brilliant movie (though I will do both of those things happily) but to spend a moment thinking about intention behind the work that we do.

Francesca is queen of the ice.
Francesca near the glacial lagoon

Francesca and I often had late-night conversations about our admiration for people that are so focused, so passionate, and so dedicated -- that they plow ahead with a unquenchable lust for learning and discovery. That these are the people that we look up to, and are inspired by. Not just because they work hard, but they are committed to understand the world a little more and to share their findings by way of their creative endeavors. Yes, James Balog is a photographer, but he also plays the role of a researcher, a journalist and documentarian.

I am sure I'll probably be asking my team to reminisce on the subject of intention and passion on one of our upcoming podcasts. It feels like an inevitability, really. Until then, I encourage anyone to look at their own practice and find the things that obsess you, and pursue those things with all you have.

You can find more information about James Balog's project Here.


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