/19 Australia

Simon Harsent

Melt: Portrait of an Iceberg

Ever since I can remember I’ve been fascinated by the way the decisions I make determine the paths that I’ll take on my journey through life. Decisions we make at any given time determine the shape of the rest of our lives. Each road leads to other roads and those roads lead to still others and so on: an infinite number of options. Some roads might intersect, or even lead to the same destination; but there are some from which there is no turning back.

I set foot on the most crucial of my roads of no return when I was eleven years old: I had decided to paint a picture of the Titanic colliding with the iceberg. I don’t really know why I decided to paint a picture, or why this subject came to me, but three years later, I was still painting. I had become deeply interested in art and art history. I spent hours painting and looking at reproductions of paintings by major artists, many of whom are still my main source of inspiration. Then came another road, another option. Photography was offered as an option at school. I signed up for the class thinking of it as nothing more than a way of documenting things I might want to paint. When I developed my first photo, when I saw the image coming clear, everything changed. I felt something I’d never felt before: intense, absorbing, wholly personal. The word ‘vision’ took on a whole new meaning. I knew for sure that photography would be the great passion of my life.

I often think back to the moment when I decide to paint the iceberg, and the path that that decision took me down. I have no doubt that the journey I’m on now is linked to this one definitive moment in my life. The body of work that constitutes “Melt” could never have come into being any other way. During my research into the Titanic disaster, I discovered that the iceberg had almost certainly traveled down Iceberg Alley an area off the West coast of Greenland where icebergs break away from the ice-wall and travel from Baffin Bay to the East Coast of Newfoundland and Labrador, and then enter the shipping lanes.

This portfolio begins with images of the massive icebergs as they enter Greenland’s Disco Bay from the Ilulissat Icefjord; it ends with the icebergs off the East Coast of Newfoundland, by which time they have traveled hundreds of miles, and have been so battered and broken down that they are little more than ghosts of what they once were. Seeing them first overpowering in grandeur and then, later, about to be absorbed back into the flux from which they came, is both beautiful and humbling: a metamorphosis that endows them with a life-span, each with it’s own personality, each with it’s own story. This project had its origin in a wholly personal moment; a personal journey. It is impossible, however, to look at these images and not think of the environmental issues we face right now. Just as the choice I made in my childhood in some ways defined me as a man, so the choices we are making as a species will define who we become, and what becomes of the planet on which we live.!