Arts and Culture

James Balog on Chasing Ice, artistic responsibility and fear of helicopters

Boulder-based photographer James Balog is an adventurer with a camera and a conscience who burst into the public eye last year with the release of Chasing Ice, a film about Balog's ongoing project to document the slow melting of arctic glaciers brought on by global warming. He's been around the world, climbing mountains and photographing nature and the infringement of culture, capturing everything from anthropomorphic portraits of endangered species to the world's tallest trees.

Tomorrow at the Colorado Photographic Arts Center, ICE: Portraits of Vanishing Glaciers, an exhibit of Balog's astonishing ice visuals will offer a rare opportunity to see his work on the wall; Balog will be present to sign copies of the like-named book from Rizzoli at a reception from from 5:30 to 7 p.m. We chatted with Balog in advance of the show about global warming and why he thinks the EIS project is so important.

See also: ICE: Portraits of Vanishing Glaciers at CPAC

Westword: How did you go from shooting animals to shooting ice?

James Balog:The trajectory was actually perfectly logical. I've liked photographing natural motifs since the early `80s. I'm interested in the boundaries and contact zones between humans and nature and photographed everything from deforestation to nuclear missiles. One thing led organically to the other, with no meaningful breaks.

What were your expectations going into the EIS Project? And how did they pan out?

I just finished writing an 11,000-word chapter for a book that points out how impossible it is to define the objective. I went into it hoping to simply shoot good material and survive, not go broke, maybe publish a book or do an exhibition with the objective of having people shift their opinion about climate change.

The fundamental motivation was my own personal, human, visceral response artistically to the world changing around me. I've spent thirty years thinking about people colliding with nature, and this is just latest manifestation.

Continue reading for more on James Balog.
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Susan Froyd started writing for Westword as the "Thrills" editor in 1992 and never quite left the fold. These days she still freelances for the paper in addition to walking her dogs, enjoying cheap ethnic food and reading voraciously. Sometimes she writes poetry.
Contact: Susan Froyd

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