Photo Essay

Death of a Mountain

Christian Houge explores our relationship to nature and the consequences of global climate change through images of a rapidly melting glacier in the Alps. The photographs examine the fragility of nature and warn of the impacts of our lack of wisdom, knowledge, and connection with the living world.

These images are an homage to an ancient giant, as if tens of thousands of years have culminated into an organism's last breath of life. Scientists warn that the world’s glaciers will be gone in less than one hundred years if we don’t reduce global warming.

I've been working to document the Rhone glacier in the Swiss Alps on several trips between 2016-2020. The Swiss glaciers have always been a reference for the world’s glaciers and global climate change. Each summer, in an effort to slow glacial melting, a group of Swiss residents cover parts of the Rhone Glacier in huge white blankets in an attempt to protect the ice from the summer heat. This serves as a metaphor for Man’s feeble attempt to stop the inevitable over time. The draping of fabric not only protects the glacier, but just as with the installations of Christo’s famous artwork “Wrapped Coast, One Million Square Feet’’ (1968-69), it helps to re-contextualize and de-familiarize a well-known natural setting, revealing the essential form.

The glacier serves as a microcosm of several issues facing the current environmental crisis as forests disappear, species go extinct, and temperatures, as well as oceans, continue to rise rapidly.

Christian Houge 

The format I have chosen is a 6 x17 centimeter analog panoramic film, which requires a patient process and technical skill. The photographs are abstractions, sometimes resembling a death veil, war-torn ruins, still objects, or wet bodies covered with cloth, providing a strong cognitive dissonance between beauty and decay. Exploring Man's condition and the relationship between Man and Nature has been an ongoing theme in my work throughout the past two decades.

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