this photographer captures the fast melting glaciers of nepal
This article was originally published by i-D Australia.
Rae Begley is a photographer devoted to documenting the majestic landscapes she encounters on her travels. Her richly detailed and thoughtful images of remote destinations, from Coober Pedy to the Himalayas, provide an incredible sense of the location's scale and atmosphere. Last year, Rae travelled to Khumbu in Nepal to shoot the otherworldly beauty of the bright turquoise glacial Gokyo Lake. What she captured was an incredibly striking body of work revealing the evident beauty of the region while highlighting the destructive stain of global warming. As she prepares to exhibit her new work, we spoke to Rae about her intrepid life and what she's learned along the way.
Your shots are breathtaking. What led you to this part of the world to begin with?
My first trip to this region was in 2014 when I went to Annapurna to photograph the mountainous landscape and I was drawn to explore further. It's initially so beautiful but there's an underlying darkness, which in moments feels very apocalyptic. I love the purity of the experience. Visiting the mountains puts life in perspective.
The lake in your pictures looks stunning.
The bright turquoise colour looks hyperreal and exquisitely beautiful, doesn't it? I love the play on what is real and what's not real, particularly now there's so much digital manipulation in photography. I find it interesting to discover and document things that are real but appear dreamlike, that challenge the perception of the audience and how they view the world. Sadly, in recent decades, the Nepali Himalayas are warming significantly and the Ngozumpa Glacier is showing signs of thinning and the ice is rapidly melting; it's as if time is literally flowing away. Despite their grandeur the Himalayan glaciers are noticeably melting from the effects of climate change.
That's really tragic. Is much being done about it?
They're in trouble, particularly in the drier regions, but people are stepping up. There are great organizations, like one called Ice Stupa, which has invented an artificial glacier as a solution to the lack of available water for the locals. I'll be donating a percentage of my sales to them as a way of helping too.
Is it difficult to properly capture the vastness of the area in a photograph?
The sheer scale of the Himalayas is certainly difficult to document! The landscape really feels endless, and there's so much detail to absorb. One thing I really loved about this body of work was how much more I discovered once my film negatives were developed, details that I couldn't take in with my own eyes.
We love the contrast of plastic chairs, towels and solar domes with the landscape. Did you stage these shots or shoot things as you found them?
I shoot things as I find them, I love discovering moments that feel staged or dreamlike but in fact exist in real life. The tarps and plastic appear to be rubbish and so clearly represent a human interference within the natural environment, but in many cases, the local people have placed these plastics intentionally to cover up yak poo which, when dried out, becomes their fuel to light fires. The solar domes were shot as they were found in a village where they're being used as a power source.
What are your future travel and photography plans?
I am planning another trip to Patagonia next year, to Chile, Peru, and the Amazon to shoot another body of work. In the meantime I'll continue to shoot photographs of the beaches that I live near; Bondi, Tamarama, Bronte, and Clovelly.