From Antarctica To Alaska, Adrift Is Magda Biernat’s Photographic Investigation Into Climate Change
Polish photographer Magda Biernat traveled from the Antarctic to the Arctic Circle, through seventeen countries in the Americas. During this period she documented how human habitation responds to and reflects harsh landscapes: the resulting series is ‘Adrift’.
“Adrift is a project that uses a visual language as a means of polar comparison,” Biernat explains. In the series, the New York and Paris-based photographer captured the organic and inorganic structures that have succumbed to the effects of a warming planet. Images of Antarctic icebergs and empty Iñupiat Eskimo hunting cabins are paired one after the other to offer visual commentary on the parallel effects of global climate change, at the very opposite ends of the Earth. “Average temperatures in the Arctic and Antarctic regions are rising twice as fast as they are elsewhere in the world,” she says. “The rising temperatures are causing more icebergs to break off from glacial floes; polar ice is getting thinner, melting, and rupturing. As they drift, the city-block-sized icebergs will disappear at a faster rate than ever before.”
Beyond environmental catastrophe, global warming is also threatening the cultural identity of native peoples. “Along a 35 kilometer stretch of coastline in northernmost Alaska, on the ancient hunting grounds of Piqniq, the Iñupiat Eskimos have hunted for centuries,” Biernat continues, “but as once massive herds of caribou dwindle and bowhead whales, walruses, and seals change their feeding and migration patterns, subsistence hunting has become more difficult. Hunters move to larger towns, leaving cabins which once provided shelter adrift on the thinning ice and shifting tundra.” The pictured hunting cabins of the Iñnupiat are mirrors of the lone ice mountains in the south: “singular polar structures under pressure by a changing ecosystem,” Biernat warns. They are “silent and static witnesses to change.”