Project Pressure is a charity that seeks to raise awareness of the planet’s shrinking glaciers through the use of art. They work to create a database of photographs that demonstrate the loss of glaciers over time and also support artists who travel to glaciers around the globe, creating art that highlights the effects of global warming. Rab have supported Project Pressure with expedition equipment for several years. The people behind the work are invariably fascinating and to raise awareness of the great work they are doing, we are producing a series of profiles with some of the project’s featured artists.
Where I thought my project was ending, another began
Peter lives in New York and so was well positioned to explore the glaciers of Washington State. This area has historically been a honeypot site for American tourists and Peter quickly became fascinated by the souvenir products that had been produced for the area over the years. He had long had a fascination with postcards, and discovering several old postcards of Washington’s mountain glaciers, an idea began to form.
“I’ve always had a fascination with postcards, and I would look for ones of the area on eBay. I got to learn about who made them and most of them feature a title that included where they were taken.”
Using Google Earth, Peter was able to pinpoint the locations from where the photos were taken and decided that he would try to reproduce them. His plan was to recreate the photographs in the style of the original with one crucial difference; the modern photos would include far less glacial mass than the original, demonstrating the loss that had occurred over the decades.
I wanted to make people view the loss of a glacier in the context of history. When these postcards were made, that was a moment that would never come again, a time that will not come back
Confronted by the change in the glaciers Peter has re-photographed, we are forced to consider the present day as a mere point in history. Will the glaciers as we see them now ever be this large again or will we continue to let them shrink as we have in the past?
To convey this historical context and produce the new photographs in the original style, Peter used Red-Green-Blue colour separation for the images. This technique was used at the very start of colour photography and involved shooting three exposures, one with a red, one with a green and one with a blue colour filter. These were then combined to produce the final image. Although he now shoots on digital, Peter was able to emulate this process with colour filters for his camera lens and some post-shoot processing work.
Peter’s project is now almost complete and is due to go on tour with Project Pressure later this year. On a personal and professional level though, the work is still far from over. The project has served as a springboard to new projects and new pursuits. On a personal level, his time in the mountains has awakened in him a passion for mountaineering. Prior to the work for Project Pressure, Peter had never undertaken any kind of climbing, having grown up in “a land with no mountains”. But following his trips to Washington, Peter is now now travelling frequently to the Alps where he pursues his new-found passion for mountaineering.
In the mountains, you would always see the people continuing on up the trails and I would think ‘why can’t I go that little bit further?’ So I started going that little bit further
His work in Washington has also opened up more creative work for Peter. While searching out more archival photography of North American glaciers for this project, he came across a startling collection of pictures. Taken across four decades by a Professor of Mechanics and Electronics named A E Harrison, in some ways, the collection mirrors Peter’s own. Throughout the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and 80’s Harrison, fascinated by glaciers, took it upon himself to rigorously document their behaviour through photography. When he began, it was a commonly held belief that glaciers were static features rather than the active, dynamic systems that we now understand them to be. Harrison’s observations weren’t all accurate however and he was actually part of a movement at the time that believed the world was about to enter another ice age. Fascinated by Harrison’s photography and his belief in a coming climactic disaster, Peter is now set to start a project on both the man and his work.
It seems very fitting that at the end of one project on the way glaciers have changed through time, Peter should discover that someone else had pursued very similar work, years earlier, and with a very different understanding of glacial science. It once again grounds us in the flow of history, reminding us that if we are to learn from these incredible natural wonders and advance our knowledge of them, not only beyond that of Harrison, but of current scientists too, then we must preserve them for future generations.