Adam Jeppesen’s Chronicle of a Polar Expedition: an Interview
Photographer Adam Jeppesen is now ready to disclose his journey from Arctic Circle to the Antarctic Continent, in pursuit of a one-of-a-kind analogue photography project to remember this experience.
Read our exclusive interview with Adam right now in Lomography Magazine.
Hi Adam! Welcome to Lomography Magazine. Firstly, we’d like to ask what interested you in going to partake an ambitious journey from Pole to Pole?
I’ve always been fascinated by the interconnection of large landmasses — seeing them for their geographical significance and not as territories divided by cultural and political borders. I could spend hours staring at maps as a child. Growing up in the US, with its culture for taking to the seemingly endless road, I began dreaming of one day going from tip to tip — Alaska to the end of the South American continent. I suppose this dream never died and therefore, many years later while working on the proposal for the project requiring spending time alone in the vast nature, I saw the opportunity to undertake this journey. Extending the trip from pole to pole seemed the natural thing to do, as the poles are the most significant marker of geographical place that we have, from “a” to “b”.
How did you fare with the cold climate?
I’ve been used to spending time in the cold, having previously worked in both the arctic and antarctic. I wouldn’t say that I find it a comfortable environment to work in, but through all the challenges and limits that it has to work in these climates I find myself more focused.
What were the necessary preparations you made?
It took about a year of planning and fundraising. The most difficult were finding a way of reaching the North Pole. I was fortunate to get a job documenting a scientific expedition to the North Pole onboard an icebreaker. Once we reached our goal I officially began my own trip, which would last 487 days till I stood on the Antarctic continent. I knew the first part of the trip would be spent in the cold as I would be crossing Canada in the winter. For this I prepared, spending time in cold pools, understanding how my body reacts to cold temperatures and getting to understand and control breathing better. I also took a course in wilderness medicine and learned how to stitch myself in the case of an accident. Things I fortunately never had to use.
Which mode of transportation did you take?
Almost all modes imaginable. But mainly by car, bike, bus and boat.
Many photographers dream to visit such isolated areas of the world. As a photographer, may you share the little details you’ve noticed when photographing the landscape?
How one relates to time has great influence on how you perceive these isolated areas. There is a certain rhythm here — away from culture and society. For me, it’s important how you arrive in these desolate areas. If you arrive too quickly, it’s as if your soul is still not there — your observations become superficial and many details, such as smell sound, and temperature may not be given the attention they deserve. However, if you move too slowly, or spend extended periods of time in the same place your grow accustomed to the place. This can naturally have benefits, but I often enjoy the how a new place, a new environment can saturate my senses. It always has a very strong emotional impact on me.
To travel is to learn more about an unfamiliar place. What did you learn during your trip?
After biking 100 km through the barren desert, I’ve learned that chocolate for at grown man can be as comforting and addictive as a mother for a small child.
The travel to these unfamiliar places can be quite challenging and intimidating. What other challenges did you face?
I kept my plans flexible and molded my days upon the circumstances. Of course, the weather can always be a challenge and did force me to change direction a couple of times. I was robbed once, but nothing too serious and the majority of my films from the North Pole we destroyed during processing. Apart for this, the overall journey was quite trouble free.
What was the most memorable part of your travel here?
As you can imagine this is difficult to answer. Memory is a strange thing that often represents moments which seem to bear no real significance. A random night in the mountains, a face passing on the road, a rusty mailbox in the middle of nowhere, or the smell of a pine forest in the summer heat. Dreamlike images that for some reason or another seem to bubble up to the surface. Of course, there are larger events as well that stand out as memorable, but they all seem to have the same importance.
Ice and water make up most of the Poles, making them some of the unique wonderlands in our world. As a photographer, how do you think can art and photography contribute to preserving the natural conditions here (particularly against global warming)?
I think the best way of creating change is to inspire people to experience the nature for themselves. For people to see through their own eyes we have and what we are losing. Images and art are just some ways of motivating people to step out into nature. I hope my work does that. The images themselves can, of course, be part of creating awareness, but given the abstractness of some of my work and personal expression, I’m uncertain if this work, in particular, will contribute to any kind of preservation.
Lastly, what’s next for you? Do you have a current project or plan? Where’s the next destination for you?
Since finishing my project I have relocated and am now living in Argentina. It has been great to be closer to the environments that I enjoy working with, to live in a less manicured form of nature. I met my wife two days before returning from the trip. We now have a daughter and I’m enjoying the insight of staying put in one place. I have recently begun working with cyanotypes and continue exploring more object-based work. How exactly this will pan out is hard to say.