An Idea is Born

Konkordiaplatz, Switzerland. The German word “Konkordia” originates with the latin word for harmony, a fitting representation to the mission behind documenting the glaciers.

Sometimes big ideas show up without announcing themselves with much fanfare in advance.

My personal fixation with glaciers dates back to the late 1990s. As a teenager, a studious friend of mine noted one of the first studies that made it to the popular mainstream that forecast the extinction of glaciers in Glacier National Park, Montana by 2030. The concept struck me as not only unforgiveable; it yielded an immediate need to see them before they disappeared. It was simply unnatural to let them go by. Whatever the case, it was a visceral reaction then that remains equally as emotionally keen now.

While life did get in the way, it was September 2015 when I flew to every remaining glacier in Glacier National Park, using the same Piper PA-11 that I am flying today. That was part of a lineage of photography book projects, which isolated itself into a specific genre: chasing glaciers in various areas and documenting them.

After a false start in the Pyrenees (spoiler alert: they are basically all melted), I started visiting glaciers again in the Alps in 2018. That has continued in earnest, under the same author model, until now.

There is an advantage to putting one’s work in a book versus digital format. It allows for it to be tangibly held, to be considered at length, and for the matter at hand to get the attention it deserves. With modern digital tools, while reach can expand, attention lasts for a few seconds and is then forgotten. At the same token, a product that is available only for purchase is inherently limited. The message simply cannot get out equally as other methods. The result, for someone like me who wishes to give the glaciers the consideration they deserve, is something of a catch-22. 

It wasn’t a question of if I wanted to go to every glacier left on earth; it was clear where my desire would lie. The issue was coalescing a personal interest around something bigger than a series of trips, and certainly something bigger than some books. The glaciers mean more to humanity than a form of literary and artistic self-expression. They are owned by humanity, are disappearing as we speak, and they are hard to get to. How can one approach this mission in a way so as to accelerate it and get out of the catch-22? 

Unceremoniously, the concept sprung forth on February 10, 2021: the glaciers belong to humanity, and so should the process to get them and the photographs that come from them. To solve the ideological confrontation of doing the glaciers justice in an attention economy while accelerating the chase so that they do not disappear before the project is done, the idea behind the Global Glacier Initiative was born. It is an extension of what I was doing on a personal level for almost five years, itself which was seeded in the late 1990s when I heard that the glaciers were disappearing. For me, there is simply no other option than to see and document them before they disappear. It is an instinct.