A Hidden World: Nighttime Photography in Greenland
Inspired by Hudson River School painters and Scandinavian cinema, Latest York–based photographer Steve Giovinco captures environmental change through long-exposure night landscape images. His latest series, Inertia, explores southern Greenland, capturing locations across the distant town of Narsarsuaq. The photos, created through minutes- and hours-long exposures, show luminous icebergs floating on waters surrounded by mountain silhouettes and ancient Norse ruins. In creating this body of labor, Giovinco built on many years of experience: he holds an MFA from Yale and has displayed his work in private and non-private collections in Latest York, Miami, Chicago, Washington DC, and more.
Inertia is currently exhibited at Latest York’s Scandinavia House, a middle for Nordic culture within the U.S., in a show called On the Arctic Edge. The show also includes works by photographer and interdisciplinary artist Clare Benson and photographer Marion Belanger. All three artists are currently American-Scandinavian Foundation Fellows.
In an interview with GlacierHub, Giovinco discussed how Inertia and On the Arctic Edge got here to be.
This interview has been edited for clarity and conciseness.
What draws you to long exposure night landscape photography?
Night photography reveals a hidden world. More specifically, I’m drawn to uninhabited places, especially Greenland, which shows evidence of change, and an eerie but beautifully otherworldly landscape emerging from the dark.
Also, regardless that there’s a really tactile, documentary-like approach, additionally it is somewhat conceptual and abstract because I’m capturing the spanning of time and light-weight — which we as humans don’t see. These are “unseen” images, captured, sarcastically, through a man-made machine.
Are you able to describe your process for creating nighttime images? Did you encounter any technical difficulties shooting in distant locations at the hours of darkness or in processing the photographs in a while?
Most are made at evening time with a digital camera mounted on a tripod, often with long exposures, starting from one to 2 hours long. This creates strange and eerie light that seems otherworldly. I’m very curious about the intersection of beauty, light, and tracing epic, shifting landscapes. And capturing the hidden world at night in addition to the hidden changing climate.
I normally make about three thousand images, then edit all the way down to a portfolio of about 15 or 20; about half are shown here. Due to long exposures, I take advantage of extensive reworking in Photoshop for 2 reasons. First, I’d have to make many dozens of color corrections, including retouching, sharpening, masks, and removing noise resulting from technical problems of working at night. Second, I take advantage of Photoshop as a option to reference the conceptual nature of the photographs. Here, I can emphasize certain elements — rocks, rivers, ice, etc. — that will not be normally seen while standing there in person, but that the camera can capture. Consequently, one photo might require 20 to 40 hours of labor.
Your portion of the show is described as featuring images of “Narsarsuaq, a small distant town lying within the shadow of glaciers.” How did the presence of glaciers and ice shape your creation of those images?
I’m drawn to uninhabited places similar to Greenland and Narsarsuaq because they reveal evidence of change through the icebergs flowing through the fjord. I feel it’s a singular location since it is each a literal representation of its melting ice and a striking metaphor for change. And maybe, by extension, a reference to other changes, similar to inertia of every kind — each natural and man-made.
You emphasize the darkness through images that generally are dark, but sometimes include areas of sunshine, a few of them specific to the Arctic (just like the northern lights and icebergs), a few of them universal (just like the moon). What was your technique of discovering these sources of sunshine after which featuring them in your photos?
My working process could be very intuitive. In the acute dark, I normally am unable to see what’s within the camera’s viewfinder and as an alternative stand beside the camera “feeling” the image and framing it within the night. Only later do I discover what I’ve photographed. It may very well be minutes and even weeks later after I return to Latest York. This technique of revelation is a key element of the work.
Your images within the show portray an isolated, mystical version of the Arctic, seemingly dreamlike and magical. But we all know that no a part of the planet is protected from the impacts of climate change. How, if in any respect, did the stress between the remoteness of the region and the pervasiveness of anthropogenic climate change impact the way you created these images?
I’m drawn to places like Greenland and the Arctic because they each are literal embodiments and metaphorical representations of a shifting world. Since I can’t take a five-year-long photograph of the Arctic, which could be interesting, I as an alternative see these one-hour-long photographs as a option to reference and conceptualize the concept of change.
I often consider Greenland’s remoteness and compare it to a spot I can understand — sarcastically, one of the vital populated places: Latest York. There are 56,000 people in Greenland spread across two thousand miles, or the identical number of individuals living in a dozen square blocks in Latest York. No roads connect towns in Greenland; just boats and air travel. A comparable trip could be like going from Manhattan to Jersey City or the Bronx in a half-hour automobile or train ride, but the identical trip might take three hours in a ship in Greenland. Or imagine going to Latest Haven, Princeton, or Long Island — it takes about an hour or an hour and a half; there it could be a $500 helicopter ride.
What do you hope viewers will take away from this exhibit?
Since climate statistics are sometimes hard to actually comprehend, I hope beautiful photographs of real-world transformations in these distant locations of icebergs and glaciers will bring recognition to people outside art galleries. I find tracing epic change to be a once-in-a-lifetime likelihood and I feel it’s urgent to proceed before it changes further. Hopefully, this work nudges people to start out to think along this fashion. For instance, here in Latest York during Hurricane Sandy, the subways were shut down. What if ice in Greenland continues to rapidly melt? How will that impact us along the East River, the East Coast, and the remaining of the world? I hope that making these images of the shifting and delightful environment causes people to pause.
On the Arctic Edge is on display at Scandinavia House through March 4.