Photographing the Arctic: Nick Cobbing
Nick Cobbing is a photographer who uses his former experience in photojournalism, and moves beyond that via an artistic approach, to bring us stories about environment, science and ecology. The majority of his work, especially more recently, has focused particularly on the Arctic region. His work is not only visually stunning but also prescient – note the small drops of water falling from the iceberg “on to” the small town of Narsaq, Greenland in the above photo from his “Signatures” gallery. While this is a natural event that occurs with the warming of the ice in the summer it alludes to the loss of ice overall and with it the loss of a vital resource for the people of Greenland. This post is timely considering the recent “celebration” of World Oceans Day on June 8th.
For someone who revisits the same territory and landscape time and again, he provides us with fresh views each time. His series Breaking Ice features the stories of two different expeditions; one on a restored Norwegian schooner, the Noorderlicht, and one on an ice-breaker. Glacial Stories features three different perspectives on the nature and character of the Arctic and the ice itself. The science of polar expeditions is the main focus of the Frozen Seas set of stories, with Arctic ice and polar bears as the main subjects of investigation. The more time one spends with the images the more you get an overall sense of the Arctic. However, they also leave enough unseen that it prompts the viewer to look more closely and to go away with questions on their mind, for example: What is the cycle of the ice? Why do polar bears need to be studied so intensely? What is the link between changes in polar bear behavior and their ice habitat?
Nick has also set up his website with the ability to view the images as well as their accompanying articles. They are well worth the read. In fact, his website is possibly the one I have seen that comes closest to giving a magazine-like ability to immerse you in a story. That is a princely ability considering the flood of cookie-cutter websites that do nothing for enhancing your experience in this way. It might be different for fine artists, who need a cleaner look and less context so as the focus remains on the images alone. But for photographers telling stories his website sets the bar high.
Nick’s images are compelling, and I find myself viewing them often; for their perspective as well as to indulge in their beauty. Hopefully stories and images such as his can provide the nudge that gets another person to do something in the name of conservation.
Although the majority of the features on his site focus on the Arctic there is also other beautiful photography to be seen there. The common element that runs through it all is the human story. I’m sure that is a thread we can all bring ourselves to understand. His images are like strong words softly spoken.