Project Description

Grounded Iceberg, McMurdo Sound, Antarctica


BerkshireNow: Shaun O’Boyle

June 2 through October 1, 2017

The BerkshireNow gallery space features extraordinary images of Antarctica by photographer Shaun O’Boyle, on view now through October 1, 2017.

Breathtaking landscapes of glaciers, mountains, and ocean are displayed alongside images of seals and penguins in their element, all taken during a seven-week photography project in Antarctica. Berkshire-based photographer Shaun O’Boyle was selected to participate in the National Science Foundation’s Antarctic Artists and Writers program; from October to December 2015 he took a series of pictures that now comprise Portraits of Place in Antarctica. Some of the most fascinating pictures in the exhibition are of architecture — the historic huts built over 100 years ago during the first explorations of the continent, and present day science stations and field camps.

“Photographing regions where human culture and history have shaped a unique architecture, infrastructure, and landscape is a driving force behind this work,” says O’Boyle. “This work attempts to look at the nuances and cultural significance of architecture and its place on the landscape. Buildings, particularly older ones in ruin, can be seen as having their original utility exhausted by the advance of progress. The photographs leave an understanding of original architectural intent while at the same time the ruined or abandoned state calls into question that intent. Now, outside of the social framework in which the structure was conceived, history, narrative, story, and time reframe the context in which these structures are seen. They become artifacts associated with ideas about exploration, struggle, empire, ownership, place, memory, and history.”

A Weddell seal in the Fish Hut dive hole.

An important element of the project, and now the exhibition, is to make comparisons between present day scientific activities and the historic buildings left from the early expeditions of Captain Robert Scott and Sir Ernest Shackleton. The present day science field camps, with their smaller scale and limited equipment make an interesting comparison to the early huts and science carried out by scientists who accompanied Scott and Shackleton. Many of the same scientific disciplines are still active and ongoing today, such as meteorology, glacial studies, biology (including marine biology, penguin and seal studies), volcanism, geology, paleontology, and cartography. Newer sciences which are ongoing at McMurdo Station are related to astronomy, and technology plays an important role. Studies related to global warming are ongoing and include ice core drilling, glacier studies, and studies of ocean acidification related to high carbon absorption by the oceans.

Shaun O’Boyle earned a BFA in architecture and industrial design from Parsons School of Design in 1987; he works as a photographer and as a designer for Hill Engineers. In April 2017, O’Boyle was named a Guggenheim Fellow in Photography, which will lead to new opportunities to take photographs in the Arctic.

A special thank you to Hill Engineers, Architects, Planners, Inc. for helping to make this exhibition possible.