Frozen in time

Ice photo exhibit captures Alaska's chilly side

Posted: Thursday, October 13, 2005


  'Ice Boulder, Kenai Mountains, Turnagain Arm, Alaska.' Photo by Hal Gage

'Ice Boulder, Kenai Mountains, Turnagain Arm, Alaska.'

Photo by Hal Gage

As October drags the mercury downward in its inevitable march toward winter, it becomes time again to get acquainted with that cold-weather eventuality: ice.

While some see ice as nothing more than a nuisance that necessitates studded tires and blasting car defrosters, others see more value in the substance.

To Hal Gage, a photographer from Anchorage, ice has more than the potential to crash a car or freeze unprotected pipes — it has beauty and significance beyond its scientific properties.

"Ice is something we have to deal with a lot up here," Gage said. "I can either try to ignore it or try to embrace it, and I finally decided to embrace it."

Gage's concerted efforts to photograph winter landscapes during the past 10 years showed beauty and variety in ice formations. It also led Gage to consider the greater significance of ice.

"I started to think about what ice was at a deeper level. It has a great deal of relevance to our environment. It could be said that it is kind of a canary to our coal mine," he said.

On one level, Gage said his show is an environmental statement, since ice melt points to changes in the ecosystem.

"Although I'm not a Chicken Little crying 'the sky is falling,' but I do think it is alarming we are losing our ice caps at the polar regions at such an alarming rate," he said.

Dire forecasts predict that within 50 years there will be no ice pack touching any shores of Alaska, Gage said.

"I think that would be a massive loss just on an aesthetic level," he said. "... Who knows, maybe in a hundred years our children won't see those types of things. In the meantime, I'm trying to get people to appreciate ice on that level."

Gage has created a 40-image photography exhibit dedicated to showing others the personality and other qualities Gage finds in his winter subjects. A smaller version of the show will be on display at the Gary L. Freeburg Gallery at Kenai Peninsula College in in Soldotna starting Sunday.

"I'm looking for what ice is internally and how that relates to us emotionally," he said.

Beyond that, the work is an example of Gage's skill at photography. The images are traditional black-and-white prints and ink-jet prints made with archival ink. In both processes the images are toned to give them warmth and added dimension. Gage also takes great care in observing the formal elements of photography — composition, tonality and design, for example.

"The image has to stand purely as a compositional device all by itself," Gage said. "It's not subject driven. Just because there's a piece of ice in a picture doesn't mean it's a picture."

Gage has done several other themed photography exhibition, such as "Ice." He's also turned his camera on monolith rock formations, Denali National Park and Bird Point south of Anchorage, to name a few.

The Anchorage-born artist has exhibited his photography nationally and internationally and also has pursued a career as a rock and roll musician. He opened The Gallery of Contemporary Fine Art Photography in Alaska in 1993 and works closely with the Alaska Photographic Center. He also was awarded the first photographic artist fellowship given to an Alaska artist from the Rasmuson Foundation in 2004.

"Ice" will be on display at KPC from Sunday to Nov. 11. Gage will give a slide lecture at 3 p.m. Sunday with an opening reception to follow.

"Hopefully people will find something to actually like about ice," he said.

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