Project Pressure is a charity which aims to highlight the steady shrinking of glaciers around the world with art. This process is difficult to perceive – over the course of a minute, hour or day there is no visible change. However by recording images over years and decades it becomes much more obvious.
The principle behind Project Pressure is that by recording images of glaciers (always from exactly the same positions) we build up a visual body of evidence which is hard to ignore – you do not need to be able to understand academic glaciology papers to see marked changes between two photos taken 10 years apart.
Founded in 2008, Project Pressure is the brainchild of Klaus Thymann, an award-winning Danish photographer and film-maker whose work has often involved mountain environments. Genuine personal concern with glacier retreat, combined with a life-long interest in mapping led to this poignant photographic project.
It was clear that this was a project which required collaboration to succeed. The first step was to contact scientists to see how photography could help them, but this was only half the process. The key is “making art useful”, empowering the public to make personal decisions about how to react to the problem of climate change.
If art can be a catalyst to sell positive stories which inspire people then that is a good way forward.
THE ‘VISUAL ARCHIVE’
As climbers and mountaineers, we are often all too aware of the effects of glacier retreat on our playground. The information found in some alpine guidebooks is becoming outdated, ladders are replacing ice and routes are slowly disappearing. However the problem is global and has much more serious consequences than the loss of climbing routes.
The Project Pressure team has taken many trips to contribute to the database of photographs, called MELT. They have been to areas not often associated with glaciology, or even ice at all. By visiting some surprising places (such as Congo, Iran and Uganda), they hope to spark an interest which will develop into engagement with the problem. Perhaps counter-intuitively, there is not much point in visiting the Arctic and Antarctic as there is already a great deal of science taking place there and there is the risk of the public becoming numb to the story.
From the outset we made a strategy to document the places that were maybe not the most documented.
Other material has come from collaborative projects with respected photographers. Although they are not traditional landscape photographers they bring valuable new perspectives. When Klaus is asked about whether the project is more fine art or documentary, the answer is simple “our role is to do both”.
The genre and format associated with photographers are far less relevant than the concepts they bring to the project. As well as taking photos in the standard format for Project Pressure, they also have their own personal take on the situation, and each new concept brings another chance to engage with the public.
Peter Funch worked with Project Pressure, documenting glaciers on Mount Baker in the US. He recreated scenes on vintage picture postcards of the area, using a traditional three colour process. This hints at the passing of time and adds surreal highlights of cyan, magenta and yellow which emphasise the now ‘unnatural’ state of the mountain.
Here at Rab Basecamp, we will be bringing you more stories from Project Pressure artists like Peter throughout 2017 in the hope of shining even more light on this vital issue and the compelling responses of those who have seen it in person.
I realized in this moment, seeing it for the first time, with the forty-two year old (almost my age) photograph in hand, just how much the glaciers have been receding.
HOW TO HELP
The World Glacier Monitoring Service has a wish-list of glaciers on which they would like data. Why not see if you might be able to help?
As a charity, Project Pressure relies on donations. All the images captured for the Project Pressure archive are free for non-commercial use. If you would like to support the work they are doing then any donation is very welcome. Visit project-pressure.org to find out more.