Snapshots depict climate change effects in MSI exhibit

Photographer James Balog captured the melting glaciers around the world in locations including the Mt. Kilimanjaro ice field in Tanzania and the coast of the Antarctic Peninsula. 

By Molly Walsh

American photographer James Balog raises awareness of the immediacy of climate change with “Extreme Ice,” an exhibit of time-lapse videography and large-scale high-resolution photo prints at the Museum of Science and Industry, 5700 S. Lake Shore Drive.

“Extreme Ice” opened at MSI March 23 and will run through early 2019. The exhibit features Balog and his Extreme Ice Survey team’s material captured over several years. Extreme Ice Survey was a long-term photography project Balog founded in 2007, which shows emotional and organic images of the earth’s changing ecosystems, according to Balog’s portfolio.

The footage in the MSI exhibit highlights the rapidly melting glaciers around the world and showcases the dramatic extent of climate change, according to the museum’s website.

“We reached out to [Balog] because of the merging of art and science that his work portrays, captures what is happening [with climate change] so vividly and viscerally,” said Sarah Ingraham, a senior researcher and coordinator at MSI.  “You could really see the changes in a way that you can’t without that artistic lens. We are so excited to have that, to give people an emotional connection to what is happening.”

Balog’s photography focuses on combining art and science to show society how remote parts of the environment are changing and to inspire conservation and preservation.

“If you believe that climate change is real, it’s easy to imagine that it happens over decades or centuries, but what his photos illustrate is that it is happening month over month or year over year in a way that is very obvious and visible to the naked eye,” said Emily Heist Moss, a Chicago resident who visited the exhibit April 2.

Balog and his team used engineered time-lapse cameras to document 24 glaciers around the world in locations including the Mt. Kilimanjaro ice field in Tanzania and the coast of the Antarctic Peninsula, the museum’s website noted.

“Anything that is visually striking always makes much more of an impression on people,” said Raymond Lodato, a lecturer at the University of Chicago who also attended the exhibit. “It does have the potential to change the climate change debate in that way. People have to be open to the message to begin with.”

Highlights of the exhibit include the footage of the largest calving of an iceberg captured on film, a wall of touchable ice and an interactive exhibit that helps contextualize the scale of impact that could be, if everybody made a small change, Ingraham noted.

“His work has been a really big project for the last 10years and it’s still ongoing. It’s incredibly contemporary and incredibly relevant and it helps us communicate what’s really going on in the world,” Ingraham said. “It can be hard to see climate change in action, but his photographs make that real.”