In 1999, the German photographer Olaf Otto Becker took a picture of a glacier in Iceland for his first book, Under the Nordic Light. When he returned to photograph the same glacier three years later, it was gone.
More recently, Becker has been photographing Greenland, whose rapidly melting ice sheet is among the urgent issues under discussion at the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.
Between 2003 and 2006, Becker made a series of solo expeditions in an inflatable Zodiac boat along 2,500 miles of the west coast of Greenland. His photographs of this remote North Atlantic shoreline—its icebergs, rock cliffs, scattered settlements, and the ocean waters that crash against it—are collected in his second book, Broken Line. They were taken at night by midsummer light, with a large-format camera and exposures of up to several minutes. Unsentimental and astoundingly beautiful, they show a violently shifting ice-filled landscape at arresting points of stillness. In scale and subject matter, some resemble the sublime landscapes of nineteenth-century painters like Frederic Edwin Church.
“When I am photographing,” Becker has said, “I am very conscious of what this same view might look like in fifty or one hundred years, even five hundred years’ time. How will it have changed? Will all the ice and snow be gone?” Because of rising temperatures and ice melt around the globe in recent years, many landscapes in Above Zero have already changed dramatically since Becker photographed them.