Q&A: TED Fellow Camille Seaman’s photos give life to ice

Posted by:

At the Fellows pre-conference and then again at TED University, Camille Seaman introduced us to the icebergs of the great oceans; as she described them: one snowflake on top of another snowflake, year after year. Her “portraits” of these great towering sea beings document the life of the iceberg, from its youth through its melting and the continuation of its path through the cycle of life. Click the video above to watch a slideshow of Camille’s work.

You spend countless hours with icebergs, around them, photographing them. How much have you studied the actual science behind them and their behavior?

First of all, I am an artist. I have absolutely no science background. But being in these regions, the ship always has an ornithologist, a geologist, who usually knows something about glaciers and rocks, a marine biologist, and sometimes even a climatologist. So I’m surrounded by these people who really know. And over ten years, I’ve learned a lot. I know about the systems and the processes. I know what I’m looking at when I’m looking at ice and I know how to tell where it came from and what stage of life it’s in.

What do you think the Arctic and Antarctic will look 100 years from now?

Just over the past 10 years I have seen dramatic change. However, I don’t think that mongering fear about change is going to garner any support or behavior that will be positive. I think it needs to come from a place of love, affection and attention. We have to care for these things, care for these places. Things are always changing; just over the past 10 years I have seen dramatic change. Whether we are influencing these changes or not is for others to debate. What I would really like to focus on and point out is that our culture needs to change before our climate can.

You noted in your Fellows presentation that photographing icebergs is like taking portraits of your ancestors. What did you mean by that exactly?

I was taught from a very young age that we are connected to everything, that everything has a life force. My grandfather used to make us do this exercise where he’d have us sit outside in the sun on a warm summer day and tell us, “Just wait.” And then we’d start to sweat. As we were sweating, these small white puffs of clouds would start to appear in the sky and he’d say, “That’s part of you in that cloud.” He walked us through the process of how this cloud becomes a bigger cloud; then it rains and feeds plants and the plants feed animals, we eat them, and it becomes part of a larger cycle. The icebergs are potentially and literally our very ancestors. They’re sweat turned into a cloud that fell as snow to finally become ice.

Camille Seaman’s TED talk has been posted. Watch it here »