In the spring of 2005, James Balog, a Boston College alumnus and award-winning photographer, launched The Extreme Ice Survey, a project that would use revolutionary time-lapse cameras to document changes in the glacial landscape of the Arctic.
The survey resulted in spectacular footage that became the documentary Chasing Ice, winner of Sundance’s Excellence in Cinematography Award for U.S. Documentary Filmmaking. Although Balog was originally skeptical of the research behind the idea of global climate change, his multi-year record of shrinking glaciers offers haunting evidence of the effects of our planet’s increasing carbon buildup.
For some, “This is the movie every environmentalist has wanted to show” to doubters of the reality of global climate change. They see it as proof that “the science is certain, and the images are inarguable.” [Sean P. Means, The Salt Lake Tribune]
The documentary, worth seeing “for the cinematography alone,” [Means, SLT] is also a powerful account of Balog’s personal confrontation with the harsh conditions of the Arctic, and his attempts to master innovative time-lapse technology amid the freezing (but not quite as freezing) temperatures. As the years of compressed footage show, Balog must withstand daily reminders of his own mortality to deliver the evidence of climate change to his audience and to offer hope for the future.
The documentary is directed by Jeff Orlowski, a cinematographer and award-winning filmmaker who has worked with Balog since 2007. The Extreme Ice Survey project was a collaboration between scientists and artists, including videographers, photographers, and a team of extreme-weather expedition specialists.
Chasing Ice has garnered wide acclaim, earning a Sundance rating of 3 ½ stars and getting the attention of National Geographic, which purchased the television rights to the film.
A communications and biology major at Boston College, Balog has been building a career in photography since his days at Boston College, and he has brandished a “show, don’t tell” philosophy since his first nature expeditions. He picked up photography when he realized he needed a way to share his mountain climbing excursions with an audience. A self-taught photographer, he carved out a niche for himself at the intersection of art and science. After earning a Master’s degree in Geology at the Colorado University at Boulder, he became a photography contributor to various publications, including National Geographic, Time, The Smithsonian, Audubon, Outside, Stern, Geo, and Paris-Match.
Balog has also published seven books, including Extreme Ice Now: Vanishing Glaciers and Changing Climate: A Progress Report, published by National Geographic Books in 2009. “ICE: Portraits of the World’s Vanishing Glaciers,” will be released this fall.
In 2005, Balog received the Arts Council Alumni Award for excellence in the arts. He exhibited his then current work, “TREE: A New Vision of the American Rainforest,” at Boston College’s annual Arts Festival. Balog’s continued success and his work in promoting the arts while supporting environmental awareness exemplify the impact a BC graduate can have on the world. We look forward to his continued success.