The polar ice caps are shrinking, causing sea levels to rise worldwide, so icebergs are the canaries in the coal mine of global climate change. It’s therefore surprising that Emeryville photographer Camille Seaman, who has been shooting portraits of icebergs in Greenland, Iceland and Antarctica for eight years for national magazines, has not shown in San Francisco, just across the bay, until now. Her astonishing photos of these unearthly crystalline islands, now dwindling in both size and numbers, and irresistible in their visual power — their “terrible beauty,” to quote Yeats — are certain, however, to find favor in this “hotbed” of environmentalism.
The combination of panoramic vistas and motionless splendor is reminiscent of nineteenth-century landscape photographs of the American West, while the impeccable detail and subdued, duotone-like color schemes (no doubt digitally manipulated to some degree) look completely fresh and contemporary, communicating their urgent message without lapsing into mere polemics. Photographs like “Crumbling Iceberg I, Cape Adare”; “Grand Pinnacle Iceberg, East Greenland”; “Sun Dimpled Iceberg in Errera Channel, Antarctic Peninsula”; “Stranded Iceberg, Cape Bird III”; and “The Drygalski Ice Tongue, Antarctica,” all of which Seaman considers “portraits of individuals, much like family photos of my ancestors,” may also suggest Romantic paintings of wrack and ruin — grand, gorgeous, and sublime, and calls us to sober reflection on the big picture.