The Swiss Alps as we know them are dying. Artist Douglas Mandry has managed to record the process of their disappearance by experimenting with old photography techniques.This content was published on January 2, 2021 - 11:00
Switzerland’s identity, closely tied to its climate, is changing as the country’s famed glaciers slowly melt. Scientists and journalists are often credited with documenting this change, but artists like Douglas Mandry are increasingly playing a role.
The Swiss artist's work connects evolution, natural phenomena and photo technology. His latest project “Monuments” involved a journey of experimentation, starting with him collecting chunks of ice from high up in the Swiss Alps, along with scraps of a fabric used to protect glaciers. This specially developed textileExternal link is used to help slow down the effects of global warming on glaciers by protecting the layer of snow from heat and ultra-violet radiation when draped over it.
“The idea of time and evolution, both in photographic technologies and natural phenomenona, keep on converging in my work.” - Douglas MandryEnd of insertion
When making his photograms for this series, Mandry shows he is very conscious of the melting glacial ice. This old photographic process is simple but the results are not controllable; Mandry placed the collected ice into a self-made large format camera containing photo sensitive colour paper. Light was then allowed to beam through a number of holes in the camera, through the ice and directly onto the paper. The result was a trace of the melting ice leaving its mark after a long period of developing; only the process of the ice’s disappearance was visible.
The artist also dug deep into Swiss tourism archives dating back to the 1920s and struck gold when he found images showing intact Alpine glaciers. A little experimentation was needed in finding out how to re-print these images onto the geotextile. By using lithographyExternal link, another old printing process: Mandry captured the fading memories of a time when the glaciers were still intact.
Born in Geneva in 1989, the Swiss artist has experimented throughout his young career with photographic techniques, questioning our relationship to memory, technology, and nature.
He has been nominated for numerous awards, including the Paul Huf Award and the Swiss Federal DesignExternal link Award. He recently won “Foam Talent 2020”. His work has been exhibited in international venues such as Photo London, Photo Basel, Art Paris, Unseen Photo Fair, Foam Museum Amsterdam and the Kunstmuseum Wien. The Bildhalle in Zürich dedicated an exhibition to his latest work ‘A Brief Crack of Light’, which can be viewed online on the gallery’s websiteExternal link.