02.13.2019

Environmental Photographer James Balog on His Work

American environmental photographer James Balog discusses his remarkable work chronicling climate change’s impact on the planet and its inhabitants.

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THE TRAILER WE SAW HAD THIS RATHER PROFOUND STATEMENT FROM YOU IN THAT SOMETHING LIKE I WANTED TO PHOTOGRAPH THE BEAUTY OF NATURE, AND NOW I REALIZE I HAVE TO BEAR WITNESS TO THIS SORT OF CALAMITY.

EXPAND ON HOW YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY AND WHAT YOU SEE THROUGH THE LENS, HOW THAT IS CHANGED.

WELL, I'VE BEEN DOING THIS SORT OF WORK FOR 40 YEARS AS AN ENVIRONMENTAL PHOTOGRAPHER ANDAP WITNESSING MORE AND MORE SITUATIONS WHERE NATURE CLEARLY ISN'T NATURAL.

WHERE THE POWER OF HOMO SAPIENS, THE HUMAN RACE, IS ALTERING WHAT WE SEE OUT THERE IN THE WORLD.

WE'RE ALTERING THE EARTH.

WE'RE ALTERING AT AIR AND WATER AND PLANTS AND ANIMALS AND THE MORE OF THAT I SAW, THE MORE I REALIZED I NEEDED TO BEAR WITNESS TO THAT AND NOT JUST HIDE BEHIND BEAUTIFUL NATURE PICTURES AND THE ROMANTIC IDEALISM.

SO YOUR FILM TALKS ABOUT -- IT IS CALLED 'THE HUMAN FACTOR.'

AND I GATHER THAT THIS IS THE FIFTH ELEMENT OF THE EARTH'S FOUR ELEMENTS, WHICH ARE EARTH, WIND, FIRE, ICE, I THINK AND AIR.

TELL ME ABOUT HOW QUICKLY THESE CHANGES ARE HAPPENING AND HOW YOU NOTICE THAT THROUGH YOUR

WELL, YOU KNOW, THIS IDEA OF EARTH, AIR, FIRE AND WATER GOES BACK TO THOUSANDS OF YEARS.

MANY CULTURES HAVE HAD THAT NOTION.

AND THE UNDERSTANDING IN MODERN SCIENCE, THIS IDEA OF THE AN THROP ISSY, WE'RE LEAVING OUR IMPRINT IN THE FABRIC OF THE ROCKS AND THE SOIL BENEATH OUR FEET IS WHAT REALLY HAS HELPED TO BRING THIS STORY ALIVE.

WE'VE SEEN THE WAY THINGS ARE CHANGING.

WE'VE SEEN IT IS URGENT AND HAPPENING RIGHT NOW AND OF COURSE CLIMATE CHANGE IS ONE OF THE MORE VISIBLE AND OBVIOUS MANIFESTATIONS OF THAT PROFOUND IMPACT.VE COME TO REALIZE THAT CLIMATE PROTECTION EQUALS PEOPLE PROTECTION.

AND I'M SURE WE COULD COME BACK TO THAT LATER.

WELL, NO, I THINK THAT IS IMPORTANT.

SOME PEOPLE, THOSE WHO DON'T BELIEVE IN CLIMATE CHANGE OR THE HUMAN ELEMENT TO CLIMATE CHANGE NEED TO UNDERSTAND THAT IT IS ABOUT PROTECTING PEOPLE AS MUCH AS PROTECTING THE CIVILIZATION.

SO YOU START THE FILM IN ICELAND, I BELIEVE, WITH THIS WHOLE TIME LAPSE PHOTOGRAPHY AND THE ICE TIME LAPSE YOU DID.

WHAT WERE YOU ACHIEVING THERE?

AND WHAT IS SURPRISED YOU ABOUT THAT?

WELL, I HAD BEEN TO ICELAND MANY TIMES.

AND SEEN THE WAY THESE BIG GLACIERS WERE BREAKING DOWN AND THE -- THE WATER WAS CONVERTING FROM IT'S SOLID STATE ON THE GLACIERS TO A LIQUID STATE IN THE OCEAN.

AND WE WENT TO ICELAND FOR THE FILM IN ORDER TO SIMPLY BRING THAT ALIVE THROUGH SOME NEW PICTURES THAT I HADN'T DONE YET.

About This Episode EXPAND

Christiane Amanpour speaks about climate change with Jay Inslee, the Governor of Washington; Anna Taylor, an environmental youth activist; and James Balog, an environmental photographer. Michel Martin speaks with Tarell Alvin McCraney & Andre Holland, the screenwriter and executive producer of “High Flying Bird.”

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