Andre Jeanpierre Fanthome’s photographs of the glaciers and icebergs in Alsaka capture their breathtaking beauty and in doing so underscores their fragility as well. The photographer, who won the National Academy Award earlier this year, talks about how the show, 32 Fahrenheit, came about.
How did you get the idea of photographing glaciers in Alaska?
My work as a business manager with a cruise-ship company took me to Alaska. What I saw there, I had never seen before. I began taking pictures and that’s how it all began. A couple of photographs I had taken hit me hard. What I had seen was really rare and I decided to do a whole series.
Sapphire: An iceberg that came off the Sowyer glacier. The blue colour is because the ice had not been exposed to air for a couple of 100 years.
How long did the project take? Any highlights?
I took the photos over the summer of 2004. It was mainly shot around three glaciers along the coastal areas—basically whatever was accessible to me.
The most spectacular sight I have ever seen in my life is captured in a sequence of four photos displayed in the exhibition. A pillar of ice 10 stories tall, broke away from a glacier and fell into the ocean. It’s called calving. I have never seen anything like it.
Did it make a lot of noise?
Yes, like thunder.
How far away were you from it?
About 500m to a kilometre, I would say.
Any comment on what is the attitude of Alaskans towards the environment?
Climate change has a direct effect on the locals, the Tlingitsm who still hunt and follow a traditional way of life. And the effect of climate change is much faster in a place like Alaska than anywhere else. But I was too busy shooting so I can’t say anything about much about attitudes.
You also photograph factories, interiors and other landscapes. How was this different?
There was much more awe in what I was shooting in Alaska. I was amazed. In your commercial work, you don’t feel as humble or insignificant.
Anything in particular you seek to achieve by this show?
My parents are teachers. And my way to teach someone something would be to excite them. I want to excite people the way I was excited when I saw the glaciers.
32 Fahrenheit will be showing at the American Center, 24, Kasturba Gandhi Marg, New Delhi, until 2 July, 2009.