Photojournalist Louie Palu’s portraits literally melted

“Arctic Passage” was on view last month in Austin during SXSW.

The polar ice caps are melting and it’s causing extreme weather patterns We know this, but imagining the scale can be difficult to comprehend. Photographer Louie Palu wants to change that.

Palu has spent the last three years photographing in the Arctic on assignment for National Geographic. During that time he captured the ways in which the warming climate is changing the lives of the indigenous people who have lived off the land for centuries.

Last month in Austin during SXSW, Palu debuted a series of portraits from his time covering the region called Arctic Passage. Palu embedded his portraits inside large blocks of ice and placed them outside of the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas for the exhibition.

people in fuzzy coats and red hoods
A portrait taken during Palu's time in the Arctic.Louie Palu

“The art I aspire to make is art that shifts your consciousness,” Palu told PBS NewsHour. “People are coming here watching nature take its course.”

As the day wore on, the large ice blocks melted and some crashed to the ground. The photos inside turned into a soggy mess.

“These are people … that live in a place that is defined by ice. The vanishing ice is going to change the way that the live.” Palu says. “We may not know it, but the ice in the Arctic is connected to all of our lives.”

Check out the PBS NewsHour segment to learn more about Palu’s work.

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