Holden, Roberta

Roberta Holden, Vancouver, Canada


Antarctic exploration, and mountaineering in general, is often represented in a discourse of conquest, the heroism of man against nature. This requires that the idea of ‘self’ be constructed in opposition to the environment. Similarly, the tourist gaze objectifies and alienates place as a distanced ‘other’, a mere picture to view, without interacting with it or engaging their other senses. Scientific investigation meanwhile, maintains a necessarily rational and dispassionate regard. The Antarctic has never been home to an indigenous population; no peoples have grown into the landscape, melding it with the self through culture, shelter, food, and spirituality.

The subjective perspective, which can not only see, but also feel, understands the oneness of people and place. This relationship is dynamic and reveals the impermanence of both the physical and biological. To move through the polar landscape as a mountaineer is to experience, through multiple senses, the fragility and power of the glacial world. From this intimate position, the perception of the mountains may quickly shift from tranquility to violence.

The greater body of work, from which these images are excerpt, explores the motion and impermanence of landscape and the human relation to space in both the Arctic and Antarctic. These images were produced in January 2007 while working as expedition leader and crew aboard a 60ft sailboat in the Antarctic. In the 5year span since my previous visit (a 2month, 6woman, climbing expedition by sailboat) the lack of sea ice and loss of low-elevation snow pack was astounding.

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