Florian Schulz: To the Arctic
In late 2012, while working at the California Academy of Sciences, I received a call from the famed German conservation photographer Florian Schulz. He passionately wanted to come to the Academy to give a talk about the Arctic region to help people better understand this part of the world. He explained that the region was under threat from oil extraction and that the prevailing rhetoric to support this effort was painting the Arctic as a white wasteland with nothing up there but oil. The oil industry folks carried forth the message that it would benefit people while doing harm to nothing… because there was nothing out there. Florian was determined to set the record straight.
The challenge for me as the lectures host was how to create a visceral experience for the audience that would reach them in the same way that being in this part of the world did for Florian. The lectures venue at the Academy was in the 4,000 square foot African Hall – a room filled with dioramas that lined the outside of the room. How could we possibly connect with this audience about the issues of the Arctic while sitting in Africa?
I then approached the planetarium team with the idea that we could adapt Florian’s images to the dome and immerse the audience inside the images. Using planetarium software, we could start them in San Francisco, zoom out into space hovering over the Earth, rotate the Earth on the dome in front of them and then show them an outline of the region we would be discussing for the night. From there, we began to descend down from space onto the surface of the Earth until we transitioned into an image of Florian’s. Yes, into the image. At this point, we were sitting in the dome surround by the images looking at scenes such a polar bears walking down off of glaciers towards us as we sat in our dingy in the Ocean.
The impact was instant. It was deep. It was visceral. We paired Florian’s talk with a brief introduction and conclusion from the President of Earth Justice, an environmental protection organization that works on legal issues for the natural world. The inform, inspire, empower model of engagement was undeniable as a successful way of talking about pressing environmental issues without hitting the helplessness off button the is often the result of too much doom and gloom messaging. See the listing from that evening below.
Award Winning Conservation Photographer
Wednesday, March 13th 2013 – 7:00 PM in the Planetarium
After a year and a half braving the bone-chilling temperatures in the Arctic, living among the polar bears and diving beneath icebergs, conservation photographer Florian Schulz came away with a stunning portfolio of images and a detailed look at arctic ecology that captures the imagination and reveals stories of a complex ecological environment rarely seen to this degree. Florian Schulz will take you on a tour of this his conservation work by being the first to ever use our full digital dome for a Pritzker member lecture while discussing how polar bears, walruses, and other marine species depend on the Arctic ice for feeding, resting, and denning. Conservation photography is a powerful tool for digital storytelling and this presentation is sure to inform and inspire us all. We will get a glimpse into the complexity of life in this challenging climate as well as a better understanding of how life here is inevitably linked to life in the Arctic. Florian Schulz is a fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers (iLCP) and one of the best nature photographers in the world. The images from this project and his personal accounts are chronicled in the IMAX 3D movie, “To The Arctic” and in a book by the same title. A book signing will follow the presentation.