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CrowdFunding promotion A photographic journey into Arctic research and culture.

posted Apr 23, 2015, 12:28 AM by J Shaw   [ updated Apr 23, 2015, 12:38 AM ]

I will document the work of various research labs in the arctic while giving insight into the perspective of native people.

About this project

 Proper acknowledgments before we start:

El texto en español lo podés encontrar aquí (click)

  • Music by Carli Aristide (awesome Argentinian musician and wonderful friend!). 
  • All Barrow, Alaska photographs displayed in this video belong to Craig Tweedie (SEL, University of Texas at El Paso) and are used with his permission.
  • Climate Prisms + Francesca Samsel (University of Texas at Austin, Bradbury Museum of Science, Los Alamos National Lab)

I’ve been granted the beautiful and unique opportunity of traveling to and documenting the Northern-most city of the United States. Situated well above the Arctic Circle, Barrow Alaska is an epicenter of scientific research and home to the Iñupiat people who have thrived in this harsh land through a continued cultivation of their traditional subsistence lifestyle. This Summer I’ll be attached to a multidisciplinary team of researchers, scientists and technicians working in this part of the frigid tundra in their efforts to better understand the shifting landscape that climate change has brought about. By way of the University of Texas at El Paso and headed byDr. Craig Tweedie, the Systems Ecology Laboratory (SEL - / BAID - boasts a roster including Biologists, Environmental Scientists, Engineers and Computer Scientists. The lab is drawing on a legacy of historical research in Barrow to determine how tundra ecosystems respond to climate warming, studying and quantifying coastal erosion and creating an infrastructure for information and data sharing between researchers. As their work builds upon the collective body of research in Barrow, it's also used to help local communities in land management and decision making. Being the first team member from the art community, I’m proud to document and experience the arctic with this multifaceted team during the 2015 field season in addition to the wonderful traditions and lives of the local community.

This is quite a departure from my usual line of work. During the past eight years I have worked in the editorial industry shooting celebrities and luxury lifestyle publications. My training in photography, both fashion and documentary, has provided me with an atypical skill set, which I consider an effective language to dialogue with my contemporaries. The focus of this project is to document the researchers and their journey through Barrow, learning about them and their projects. Given the intimacy that will be granted to me as part of the crew, I will share their every day lives and show the public the importance of the research being done here, emphasizing on the human kinship. The other phase of this project will be a closer observation of the Iñupiat; a community rich with tradition, deeply connected to the land and wildlife and exposed to the effects climate change first hand. The telling of their stories, rituals and their interactions with this extreme landscape will help in the understating of the size and depth of this issue. My story will convene with that of the Iñupiat and the challenges they face now and the ones that lie ahead of them. Standing on the edge of the world I will stand witness to the extensive work of the science community in an ever-shifting landscape.

  • The images and video resulting from this experience will be turned into a multidisciplinary exhibition (photo, video and mapping installation) to be placed at The University of Texas at El Paso.
  • self published book & ebook
  • Photos for scientific publications, educational material and press for the project. 
  • Online journals and social media contents, as I will manage both my personal accounts and the official ones. 
  • Video pieces related to climate change, featuring the Iñupiat people and scientists for online release.
  • An Archive of image and video files of the 2015 field season to be used by the Systems Ecology Lab and shared with collaborators.

Supporting further exposure of this project and strengthening its educational reach, Craig Tweedie, Cathy Wilson (Los Alamos National Laboratory) and I will be contributors representing the activities in Barrow for 'Climate Prisms' a project headed by Francesca Samsel( & Climate Prisms will provide users with insight into the science and implications of climate change. It is an interactive and self-guided system of threads through artistic, literary and scientific presentations. This project will be constituted by a fixed exhibition and a nomadic component that will travel around the U.S. and the world.

Polar regions are hit the hardest by climate change thereby affecting the welfare of the arctic communities. Rising temperatures, declining snow cover, thawing permafrost, rising sea level, retreating Summer sea ice and eroding coast lines are but some of the trends being observed by scientist in Arctic. Climate change is not an abstraction in Barrow, it is a fact of daily life.Shedding light on the hard work of the scientific community and the inhabitants of the region is fundamental.

Photography and video play a core role in the understanding of an issue this expansive. Images hit us in the gut, they aid us to gain a better understanding of matters that could easily seem overwhelming and distant if experienced as mere statistical analysis, graphs or scientific terms. The wonders of science, nature and anthropogenic impacts on environment are the foundation of my interests. The products of such fascination can potentially take any form (film portraits, photographs, books, immersive spaces) and it comes straight from my own enchantment with the world and how we inhabit it. Through these works I hope to mesmerize and spark the curiosity of others so we can find, at least for a moment, affinities with complete strangers through increased self-awareness.

I will work in Barrow, Alaska for 3 months starting June, 2015. I'm participating as a non-paid volunteer. This means my expenses (plane tickets, food and housing) will be covered but I will be not receiving any compensation as payment.

With your support, I will successfully be able develop my project. Everything gathered here will go the production of the final piecescamera gear and polar clothing

Any help you can afford would be an IMMENSE gesture of support. 


The Rewards:

  • Photographic prints (7" x 10" = 18 x 25.5cm / 16" x 24" = 40.6 cm x 60 cm)
  • Ipad or Kindle ebook 
  • *Engineering print (3ft x 4ft = 91.5cm x 122cm / 24" x 36" = 61cm x 91.5cm)
  • Calendar (11" x 8.5" = 28cm x 22cm)

*What is an engineer print? / Qué es un plano?: Take a look here

Risks and challenges

Equipment damaged by humidity and condensation, or malfunctioning due to exposure to the weather. Accidents happen, cameras break. 
That's why your pledge it's so important for this project. It will help me to expand my current photo gear and minimize the impacts of technical failures.

Human bodies get damaged by humidity and condensation too. That's why part of this money will allow me to buy the proper polar gear to stay warm and dry :)

Printing times could be delayed since I will be taking care of all the production phases of the resulting materials.