Italian climate change photographer and filmmaker Luca Bracali gets around the world a lot these days. And where he goes, his camera(s) go with him as he continues his pursuit of photographing the changing climate he finds just about everywhere.
Bracali and camera … and his vast collection of images showing impacts of climate change … are practically inseparable. He has been shooting professionally for more than three decades as a professional photographer – his first paid image was a black-and-white shot of a motocross racer for a specialized magazine. With a trip to Antarctica in 2003 came his principal focus on climate change.
On a recent brief return to his home in Pistoia, after having been in Svalbard in the North Atlantic and before taking off for Mongolia to shoot – as in photography, you understand – eagle hunters and “the 180 reindeer-men still surviving in this lost country,” the 53-year-old photographer and film maker took time to engage in an e-mail Q&A with Yale Climate Connections.
Bracali: Sorry for not answering sooner but yes, when you wrote me I was still up in the air coming back from my last amazing trip to the Svalbard island, sailing with a boat at 81 degrees north, just 1.000 kilometers from the north pole. I can tell you we found a desperate situation about global warming, with strong evidence of ice melting. (Check a few of the pictures here.)
Before taking off for Mongolia, Bracali addressed several specific questions about his years specializing in climate change photography.
Yale Climate Connections: What is the single most important message you hope your climate photography will send to those viewing your images?
Bracali: To develop, to create their own eco-moral sense, not to believe that global warming is just a marketing affair. Photography is the world most international language, and throughout my shots it should be quite easy to admire the beauties of our planet and its fragility at the same time.
Yale Climate Connections: How many countries, and how many continents, have you visited in your work on photographing the effects of a changing climate? Do you have favorite venues – towns, cities, regions, etc. – for shooting climate images?
Bracali: So far 139 countries. In October, it will be 140 with Madagascar, and I’ve been in all the continents. My visit to Antarctica was in 2003, visiting the Vernadsky Base, where Jonathan Shanklin in 1985 first discovered the ozone layer. I started opening my eyes on our planet’s trouble. There’s no doubt that Arctic and Antarctic regions are the most sensitive to climate changing, so it’s not a coincidence that I’ve been eight times to the Svalbard, eight times to Iceland, four times to Alaska, six times in Canada, one time in Siberia, one time to the geographic North Pole, and one time to Antarctica.
Yale Climate Connections: If you HAD TO narrow down your personal favorite or most relevant images …. what would they be? Which ones? What makes them your top favorites?
Bracali: Well, I can’t forget that polar bear shot in 2015 in a frozen Hudson Bay, when on November 9 at 12 a.m. it was minus 20 degrees C. Last year, on that same day and same time, it was +3 degrees and the bears were eating seaweed instead of seals. My story, unfortunately, gained more than 12.000 likes on National Geographic. Then I have the dramatic beauty of nature. South Iceland’s Jokulsarlon lagoon images show something that 80 years ago was not existing, while now it is a lovely bay, with thousands of icebergs floating as a result of the retreating of the glacier face, about 100 meters every year. Now they belong to the Vatnajokull, also in Iceland – the biggest glacier in Europe, and the fourth largest in the world.
Yale Climate Connections: Why, in your view, is photography an especially effective medium for communicating about climate change? Aren’t many of the actual impacts, after all, still invisible?
Bracali: Absolutely not! They are invisible only if people want to be blind, as some country’s leaders apparently are. I can show very clearly where rocks are now visible, while in the ’90s those areas were totally covered by ice. And I can show you some spots, taken with my drone in a zenith view, that clearly proves how permafrost is always getting closer to Earth’s surface.
Yale Climate Connections: Tell us, How does it make you feel personally when you feel you have captured the “perfect image”?
Bracali: There really is a total satisfaction. It’s something that entirely fills your senses, an orgasm of the soul, if you allow me to use this word.
Yale Climate Connections: A final question: Many of your photos are so striking, so dramatic. Do you do a lot of post-processing, using software to enhance your climate images images?
Bracali: Exactly zero!!! I have an absolute hate about post-processing simply because, being a transparent person, I want to show nature in its real essence and not deceiving people. I of course adjust for lowlight and highlight where necessary, to compensate the digital low dynamic range. But I’m not a reality transformer as many “PhotoShoppers” – even among professional photographers – are.
To see more of Bracali’s climate change photographs and learn more about his work, go to his website.
Also see: This photographer is documenting radical change in the Arctic