Night Landscape Photographs of Greenland Presentation: Portfolio, Approach, Context, by Steve Giovinco Given at APAG

Night Landscape Photographs of Greenland Presentation: Portfolio, Approach, Context, by Steve Giovinco Given at APAG

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Given at American Photography Archive Group, March 24, 2023

Thank you all so much! My name is Steve Giovinco and I am a fine art photographer in New York. I’ll show some recent work, talk about my process and show a few images from a recent exhibition.

This is a series of night landscape photographs taken in Greenland about a year and a half ago. They were supported by a grant from the American-Scandinavinan Foundation, so my sincere thanks, since the trips there were life-changing.

Most are made at night time with a digital camera mounted on a tripod, often with long exposures, ranging from an hour or two long. 

This creates strange and eerie light that seems otherworldly. I’m very interested in the intersection of beauty, light, and tracing epic, shifting landscapes. 

And capturing the hidden world at night as well as the hidden changing climate.

I am drawn to uninhabited places, especially Greenland, revealing evidence of change. 

I feel it is a unique location because it is both a literal representation of its melting ice and a striking metaphor for upheaval. 

And perhaps, by extension, a reference to other changes, such as inertia of all kinds–both natural and man-made. It’s kind of a symbol of change.

Working alone at night in the arctic is quite terrifying, frankly. Yet among the beauty, also meditative, or like a walking meditation. 

Standing silently in the beauty, as if disappearing in the space, being crushed and expanding at the same time–a mix of so many things. 

In-between shots, I walk, wait, rest and scout the next location, sometimes listening to music or podcasts.

My working process is very intuitive. In the extreme dark, I usually am unable to see what is in the camera’s viewfinder and instead stand beside the camera “feeling” the image and framing it in the night. 

Only later do I discover what I’ve photographed, it could be minutes or even weeks later when I return to New York. This process of revelation is a key element of the work. 

Also, even though there is a very tactile, documentary-like approach,  

it is also a somewhat conceptual and abstract element because I am capturing the spanning of time and light–which we as humans don’t see. 

Especially, trying to capture what we don’t see and as a result, these are “unseen” images, ironically, through a man-made mechanical device.

In a way, these are directly and indirectly about the environment. 

As I mentioned before, I am drawn to places like Greenland and the arctic because they both are literal embodiments and metaphorical representations of change. 

Since I can’t take a five-year-long photograph of the arctic (!), which would be interesting, 

I instead see these one-hour-long photographs as a way to reference and conceptualize the idea of change and time and ultimately lead to thinking about the environment in a wider scope. As I said, global warming is an abstraction for many. I hope that making these images of the shifting and beautiful environment causes people to pause. 

It’s amazing to think how remote this is. There are no roads connecting towns; just boats and air travel.

For example, think of going from here to Jersey City or the Bronx, normally a half-hour trip, but the same distance there might take three hours in a boat. 

Or imagine going to New Haven, Princeton, or Long Island–it takes about an hour or an hour and a half; there it would be a $500 helicopter ride. 

There are 56,000 people in Greenland or the number of people living in StuyTown, which are spread across two thousand miles.

Sometimes I create “test” photos were I set the ASA to 50,000 or more. I usually make about three thousand images, which are then edited down to a portfolio of about fifteen or twenty.  

Because of the long exposures, I use extensive reworking in Photoshop for two reasons. A photo as a result might require 20 to forty hours. 

Just to go back to the images: First, I might need to make many dozens of color corrections in Photoshop, including retouching, sharpening, masks, and removing noise due to technical problems of working at night. 

Second, I use Photoshop as a way to reference the conceptual nature of the images. Here, I can emphasize certain elements–rocks, rivers, ice, etc.–that are not normally seen while standing there in person, but that camera can capture. 

This mirrors my initial experience when standing at night as my eyes adjust to the scene. I love how they are shown here, without glass or glazing, to have a direct experience of the work. The sizes are 20×24”, or 40×50”, edition of five. I’m currently working on a book. For example, here in New York during Hurricane Sandy, the subways were shut down.

What if ice in Greenland continues to rapidly melt? 

How will that impact us–like the East River, the East Coast, and the rest of the world?  

Artistic inspiration comes from history, painting, cinema, literature and photography. photography has a long history of documenting change. 

I think of Eugene Atget’s transforming Paris, the eerie night scenes of Brassai; Hudson River Landscape painters–Frederic Edwin Church–and films by Michelangelo Antonioni. 

I just happened to be talking to a friend who is Polish and she mentioned Joseph Conrad, who reminded me of the novel he wrote, “Heart of Darkness,” which was a favorite book and was the inspiration for “Apocalypse Now,” also a film that I love. I get that feeling of traveling deep in the landscape, where the world is abandoned and you enter a mysterious world where you are just a witness.

I aim to return to Greenland, this time to the extremely remote Eastern part. Also, I am still in the running for a Fulbright Fellowship in Iceland having passed the three rounds of reviews, where I will continue this work.

And since climate statistics are often hard to really comprehend, I hope beautiful photographs of real-world transformations in these remote locations of icebergs and glaciers will bring recognition to people outside art galleries. I find tracing epic change a once-in-a-lifetime chance and I feel it is urgent to continue before it changes further. Hopefully, this work nudges people to start to think along this way.

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