Copyright Simon Harsent 2010 Pool Productions courtesy photo-eye (http://www.photoeye.com/magazine/reviews/2010/11_18_Melt.cfm)
After leaving the Midwest over twenty-five years ago for Southern California, I am now content to visit the snow on our annual ski trips. I have fond memories of the first snow or awaking with a fresh white blanket covering our yard, but I recall with equal feelings trudging to school with a wintry blast stinging my face or wading through the early spring slush. Thus it is difficult for me to comprehend a growing interest in icebergs, while it is apparent that these floating structures have stirred the imagination of a growing number of photographers. Joining them is Simon Harsent with his recent photobook Melt, Portrait of an Iceberg.
My first impression Harsent’s documentation of various icebergs during their migratory pathway was investigating a collective portrait of an iceberg. The difficulty that I have with this concept is the implication that if we were presented with photographs of a variety of people we might construct a portrait of a human. Thus after considering the cleaving, wasting away and eventual dissolution of these snowy structures, I sense an alternative symbolic narrative about a mid-life crisis, old age, impermanence and eventual passing.
These are outward looking Seascapes, with a mass of snow and ice rising just above horizon and filling much of the sky. The ocean usually appears tranquil, while the skies are dark, overcast and clouded and provide a moody and melancholy feeling to the photographs. One result of the flat lighting is to compresses these structures into abstract surfaces. These structures are frequently ambiguous as to their relative size and volume; without a fathomable reference point, I can not be sure how large these masses are. Harsent sublime compositions early in the book hint at a massive size, such that they can not be retained within the boundaries of the pictorial space. Later in the book, when the icebergs have become more diminutive, they sit easily within the frame.
Harsent serially presents photographs of the phases of an iceberg, a progression that begins as large looming structures and that over time become reduced in size to be reshaped by the sea, wind and sun. The structures appear to be in a slow kinetic morphing, assuming random changes in appearance, depending on the weather conditions encountered in their slow plodding transition to the iceberg graveyard. The chiseled and angular sides of the iceberg initially reveal the results of the cleaving, exposing the structures ancient inner core. The resulting wind, sun, melting and sublimation subsequent re-contour the surface lines, creating aesthetic windswept and flowing icy sea-sculptures.
The beautiful horizontal color photographs are complemented by a classic layout in this large, oversize horizontal hardcover book.
By Douglas Stockdale
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