All images by Christophe Audebert. Used with permission.
“Nowadays it is critical to save our planet,” Christophe Audebert firmly states as he talks about the impact climate change is having on the world. Where other photographers choose to document the damaging effects, Christophe, a Parisian based landscape photographer, is highlighting what we can do differently. In his series Liquid Time Iceland, he photographs and educates how the Nordic island is making use of its natural resources. When it comes to innovation, Iceland is one of the leading nations producing geothermal power. He explains, “It’s cheap, abundant, no greenhouse effect, a lower risk for pollution. The advantages are plenty.”
During our conversation with Christophe, we look at what the world can do to be better, how his creative photography is helping to make a difference, and how he aims to focus more on societal concerns in the future.
Phoblographer: What interests you about geothermal power, more so, from a photographic perspective?
CA: Due to the high concentration of volcanoes in Iceland, geothermal energy is abundant. The production can be relatively easily achieved. Five major geothermal power plants provide around 30% of the country’s electricity, and 90% of the buildings in Iceland are heated through geothermal energy. In Iceland, each village even has its own small swimming pool filled with geothermal water. This is the number one country for renewable energy in the world per habitant.
“Before making the photograph I always ask myself what is the main feature of the landscape I see in front of me”.
From a photography perspective, I find geothermal power networks and factories very photogenic and graphic. Either with snow or in the summer season, their visual impact in the landscape is very strong. It creates a contrast between nature and industry. The compositions work very well both from a large and a tight angle, depending on what I want to achieve. Let alone the white steam, escaping from the pipes, that makes the scene lively.
“I like creating motion just by setting an appropriate shutter speed: a relatively short shutter speed from 1 to 15 seconds can reveal textures in the sky and on the water surface, while a longer shutter speed from one to four minutes creates an ethereal mood.”
Phoblographer: Your work is filled with beautiful long exposures. What do you enjoy most about practicing this technique?
CA: Long exposure photography is about focusing on moving elements, such as water (sea, rivers, waterfalls…), and clouds in a natural or urban scene. I like creating motion just by setting an appropriate shutter speed: a relatively short shutter speed from 1 to 15 seconds can reveal textures in the sky and on the water surface, while a longer shutter speed from one to four minutes creates an ethereal mood. Before making the photograph I always ask myself what is the main feature of the landscape I see in front of me – dynamic motion or softness? And then I set the appropriate shutter speed and use the correct ND filters to express my photographic intention.
“The main issue is the strong lobbying actions from oil and natural gas companies”.
I really enjoy guessing what the result will be and taking my time to make a good picture. This technique requires additional efforts compared to a “classical” photograph, the process is challenging. I like that. This also allows me to create different images even of well-known locations. I have written a 150 page book about Long Exposure Photography published in French by Eyrolles in 2017.
Phoblographer: From New York to Venice, you’ve traveled the world photographing amazing landscapes. Do you feel major countries can do more in terms of their approach to geothermal power as a solution to climate change?
CA: More countries are considering geothermal energy as an alternative solution due to climate change. The USA is the number one country to produce electricity from geothermal power in the world, followed by The Philippines, Indonesia, New Zealand, Italy, Mexico and Iceland. This is no surprise they are countries where volcanic activity is strong. But worldwide the level of production of electricity from geothermal power is still rather low – only one to two percent of the worldwide electricity in total. This shows a huge potential for geothermal energy. The main issue is the strong lobbying actions from oil and natural gas companies. Political backgrounds worldwide have also to be considered.
Phoblographer: An image from your Iceland series was recognized in the IPA Climate Change contest. Talk to us about the background of the photograph.
CA: This image shows a geothermal plant photographed very close to the subject, with a wide angle lens (19 mm). My intention was based on architecture to connect the big pipes and the plant. The eye is attracted by the large size of the pipes and then the lines bring the eye to the plant. This perspective is mostly created by the wide angle lens. The long exposure shot creates motion in the clouds and in the steaming from the vertical stack. This image was rewarded in two photo contests: ND Awards: 3rd place and Bronze Award in architecture (Industrial category), and IPA Climate Change: 2nd place (Machine category). Obviously, the image refers to two areas: architecture and climate change. It makes it even more interesting.
“These people have also to face tough weather conditions and they mostly stay at home as much as possible. Contrary to British, Scottish and Irish people who go to pubs to find human warmth and relationships. In the remote areas of Iceland and the Faroe Islands, the concept of pubs does simply not exist.”
Phoblographer: Because of the success of this series, through the medium of landscape photography, has it inspired you to focus on other societal issues we’re currently facing?
CA: My favorite subjects are wild landscapes and seascapes. Iceland and the Faroe islands are my top two destinations. Because villages in these countries are small, remote and isolated, I am thinking of a new photo series based on the solitude issue. These people have also to face tough weather conditions and they mostly stay at home as much as possible. Contrary to British, Scottish and Irish people who go to pubs to find human warmth and relationships. In the remote areas of Iceland and the Faroe Islands, the concept of pubs does simply not exist.
You can enjoy more Christophe’s work and keep up to date with his future projects by visiting his website.