When the last of Glacier National Park’s glaciers are gone, there will be a some big books to remember them by.
Montana State University photography professor Ian van Coller has been working on a project to photograph the last of the Park’s glaciers, lugging around a medium format digital camera over hill and dale in the Park.
His work was recently part of a book, “The Last Glaciers” which featured his photographs and the work of Todd Anderson, a printmaking professor at Clemson University, and Bruce Crownover, a master printer at Tandem Press at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
This is no ordinary book, either. The pages are massive at 25 inches by 40 inches. It is not commercially available — only 15 were printed — but it was on display earlier this month at New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Van Coller said his group of fellow artists, which calls itself The Last Glacier Collective, decided to display their work in a book rather than images that would hang in an exhibit, because “when the exhibit is done, it is taken down, and put away. Books are available for a long time,” he said. “We wanted to reach as many people as possible.”
Collectors of the book include the Library of Congress, Yale University, Stanford University, the Davis Museum at Wellesley College, the Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation Collection, Clemson University, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, one of the greatest art museums in the world.
Van Coller grew up in South Africa. He became interested in wildlife photography at the age of 13. He’s been living in the U.S. for 25 years now.
He said so far he’s been to 16 of the remaining 25 of the glaciers in the Park, hiking about 150 miles each summer.
On some trips, they simply had to turn around. One off-trail excursion brought him to Nahsukin Lake en route to Two Ocean and Vulture glaciers, “but we couldn’t figure out how to get over the headwall.”
He takes his photos with an Alpa medium format camera and a 60 megapixel Phase One digital back.
He minimally processes the photos.
“All I do is color corrections,” he said. “That’s pretty much it.”
There have been interesting wildlife encounters along the way. Including running into two grizzly bear cubs on the Grinnell Glacier Trail. They were running at high speed down the trail. When they saw him, they went straight up the cliffs.
Van Coller was duly impressed by their agility.
Blackfoot Glacier was also difficult to get to. He said they came down the wrong ridge and ended up on extremely steep glacier moraine, which is hard pan soil with small pebbles on — like walking on marbles.
Van Coller said he hopes to one day visit and photograph all the glaciers in the Park.
“I want to provide some kind of artistic record of these things that will someday be gone,” he said.
But he has other projects on tap as well, including a trip to Antarctica. He also has made a large-format book on the glaciers of Iceland as well as a book on puffins. He is also is currently at work photographing glaciers and ice patches in Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park. He has plans to photograph a tree called “Methuselah,” a 5,000-year-old bristlecone pine tree in California’s White Mountains that is thought to be the oldest non-clonal tree on the planet, meaning that its trunk is the same age as its root system.
To view Coller’s work, go to http://www.ianvancoller.com