PDN Photo of the Day

A Photographic Climate Change Riddle

Photographer Christina Seely‘s new exhibition distills ten years of her travels to the Alaskan Arctic and Greenland ice sheet, and shows her artistic approach to using digitally manipulated photographs and science to address the disorientating nature of severe climate change. The exhibition, “Perdita, In Finding(s),” is on display through January 11, 2020, at San Francisco’s EQUINOM Gallery.

The show’s title offers the first clue about the project’s aim to befuddle the viewer by posing a set of impossible riddles: “Perdita” is Latin for “lost.”

In her excursions, Seely has personally witnessed the grave and far-reaching changes to landscapes at the northern reaches of the planet. As a response, she created work that “faces into the inherent tentativeness brought on by exponential change,” as she explains in her artist’s statement.

In her images, we see grids, graphs, and data points juxtaposed with soaring birds, glaciers and rock.  At a glance, the project offers a satisfying sense of order and understanding. Math equations have solutions, right? Yet the images ultimately inspire a feeling of disorientation.

For example, a number of works in the exhibition, nicknamed “bird grids,” originate from a trip to Alaska. The images show flocks of seabirds in the sky. Seely dramatically crops and rotates the images, and also overlays them and surrounds them with grids. The result is an “off-kilter” way of “seeing and of being that amplifies the chaotic-ness of lives caught in motion…viewers are left unbalanced, gazing into a bright blank sky,” writes EQUINOM in the press release.

“Quantitare – glacies (Exponential Ice, Gully Breen / Svalbard Territory),” is a work comprised of 11 prints, picturing glaciers, that Seely mounted together to form a hypnotic, never-ending tunnel. In this image, and all the others in “Perdita, In Finding(s),” Seely establishes herself as an artist that is not bound by the history of photography. By combining her photographs with a wide range of media, particularly those related to science and math, Seely is making a statement about the “failure of photography to comprehend…the scale of change that is currently underway.”

In “Perdita, In Finding(s),” writes Seely, photographs serve only as “symbols” of the natural world. “These ‘symbols’ are then set in conversation with familiar visualizations of measurement and organization associated with scientific and mathematical inquiry that tend to imply a sense of control.”

Seely writes that “ideally” the work “activates a conversation about how we value, control and try to understand (for better or worse) the natural world…or our place within the complexity of the larger planetary whole.”

“Perdita, In Finding(s)”
By Christina Seely
Through January 11, 2020

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  1. Fascinating! I studied Wildlife Biology and Photography at The Evergreen State College from 1987-91 and one of the key lessons I learned is that media coverage of the natural environment does far more to influence public opinion, and therefore policy decisions than dry statistics about large numbers of birds, etc. Great work Christina!

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