Get Lost in These Gorgeous Portraits of Glaciers

The Photo Blog
Oct. 27 2013 12:06 PM

Gorgeous Portraits of Glaciers

Perito Moreno, Patagonia, Plate I. Perito Moreno is three miles wide and nineteen miles long, with ice that has been dated back three thousand years. In 1981 it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was the first glacier photographed and the inspiration for the project.
Perito Moreno, Patagonia, Plate I. Perito Moreno is 3 miles wide and 19 miles long, with ice that has been dated back 3,000 years. In 1981 it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was the first glacier photographed and the inspiration for the project.

Caleb Cain Marcus

There is certainly a dreamy quality to Caleb Cain Marcus’ vertical portraits of glaciers that make up his series and monograph, A Portrait of Ice. Most likely it has something to do with his childhood, spent 35 miles outside of Telluride, Colo., where he was born in a cabin below Wilson Peak, “a beautiful fourteener that I climbed the day after my sixth birthday,” he said.

“There’s a picture of my skis next to my mother and father’s; they look so small,” Marcus wrote via email about his upbringing. “I was a year and a half. When I got tired, my mother would pull me in the sled. An outsider might say I grew up in isolation, but I never felt this way. I was part of the mountains and the trees, the deer and the coyote. I didn’t feel separate from them.” That connection to the mountain served Marcus well during the two years he spent working on A Portrait of Ice, which took him around the world from Patagonia to Iceland, Alaska, New Zealand, and Norway.

Fox, New Zealand, Plate I. This is one of the only glaciers in the world that ends in rain forest. The first guiding took place in 1928 from the town of Weheka. The glacier became the source of the town’s fame and in 1944 it was renamed Fox Glacier Township in honor of its glacier.
Fox, New Zealand, Plate I. This is one of the only glaciers in the world that ends in a rain forest. The first guiding took place in 1928 from the town of Weheka, New Zealand. The glacier became the source of the town’s fame, and in 1944, it was renamed Fox Glacier Township in the glacier's honor.

Caleb Cain Marcus

Fláajökull, Iceland, Plate I. Fláajökull is one of the many glacier tongues of Vatnajökull which is the largest icecap in Europe. The average speed at which the tongues are moving is one meter per day. Fláajökull has retreated over a mile in the past century.
Fláajökull, Iceland, Plate I. Fláajökull is one of the many glacier tongues of Vatnajökull, which is the largest icecap in Europe. The average speed at which the tongues are moving is 1 meter per day. Fláajökull has retreated more than 1 mile in the past century.

Caleb Cain Marcus

Tunsbergdalsbreen, Norway, Plate VI. Legend tells of a nearby village that was con- sumed by the plague. Two years passed before anyone searched for survivors. They found one woman who walked down from the glacier. When they spoke to her she was silent and they never discovered how she survived.
Tunsbergdalsbreen, Norway, Plate VI. Legend tells of a nearby village that was consumed by the plague. Two years passed before anyone searched for survivors. They found one woman who walked down from the glacier. When they spoke to her, she was silent, and they never discovered how she survived.

Caleb Cain Marcus

Using New York City as a base, Marcus said the series afforded him an adventure on each glacier, where he was constantly straddling a line between doing what it takes to get a great photo and taking too much risk to get his shots. “When the glacier’s essence emerged and the air tingled, it was as though I was carried away by a symphony,” Marcus wrote. “I ran. The guides inevitably yelled at me and told me I could fall and break my leg or slide off a precipice. ... Eventually the guides either gave up or saw that I had an understanding of the ice’s surface. I’m not sure which.”

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Although the work is often seen as somewhat meditative in nature, Marcus said that feeling often arises from his desire to create photographs devoid of distraction, though he hardly feels his images are without emotion. “I look for space that has stillness and silence, but not one that is flat,” he said. “Quite the opposite: space that is charged, one where the air is alive. The result is the viewer can slow down and become absorbed within the space of the photograph.”

Sheridan, Alaska, Plate II. Hoping to gain favor, U.S. soldiers named many Alaskan glaciers after their commanders. General Sheridan was responsible for thousands of Indian deaths. This area of the glacier reminded me of a battlefield. The yellow color is from tree pollen that had fallen onto the ice.
Sheridan, Alaska, Plate II. Hoping to gain favor, U.S. soldiers named many Alaskan glaciers after their commanders. Gen. Sheridan was responsible for thousands of Native American deaths. Marcus said this area of the glacier reminded him of a battlefield. The yellow color is from tree pollen that had fallen onto the ice.

Caleb Cain Marcus

In order to lose the glaciers' sense of scale and perspective in his photographs, Marcus intentionally shot them without a horizon, which he said allowed them to float, detached from reality.

Marcus said he is currently working on two series, which may meld into one, that deal with the relationship between man and nature and continue his exploration into space and color.

Regardless of his subject, there will probably be a dreamy quality to the work, something he achieved in A Portrait of Ice. “You could say the photograph provides an escape from the everyday,” Marcus said.

Sólheimajökull, Iceland, Plate I. The 2010 volcanic eruption of Eyjafjallajökull covered the glacier with ash. Where the ash accumulated it affected melting rates of the ice. This caused sculptural mounds of ashen ice throughout the glacier.
Sólheimajökull, Iceland, Plate I. The 2010 volcanic eruption of Eyjafjallajökull covered the glacier with ash. The accumulated ash affected the melting rates of the ice. This caused sculptural mounds of ashen ice throughout the glacier.

Caleb Cain Marcus

Fox, New Zealand, Plate II. This is one of the only glaciers in the world that ends in rain forest. The first guiding took place in 1928 from the town of Weheka. The glacier became the source of the town’s fame and in 1944 it was renamed Fox Glacier Township in honor of its glacier.
Fox, New Zealand, Plate II

Caleb Cain Marcus

Franz Josef, Plate II. Maori legend tells the story of the woman Hinehukatere who lost her lover while climbing in the mountains. Her tears froze to form the Franz Josef glacier that exists today.
Franz Josef, Plate II. Maori legend tells the story of the woman Hinehukatere who lost her lover while climbing in the mountains. Her tears froze to form New Zealand's Franz Josef glacier that exists today.

Caleb Cain Marcus

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