Photographer Lasse Lecklin has been documenting changes related to the environment, especially in the arctic areas, for almost ten years. Lecklin has been working in Iceland regularly since 2016, and Iceland and its disappearing glaciers are at the centre of the artworks Lecklin is showing at the Forever Changes exhibition, which is organised in Glasgow.
Forever Changes is open until the end of January 2022 at Street Level Photoworks in Glasgow.
We spoke with Lasse Lecklin about the way he works, the role of art in climate issues, as well as what he himself wants to express with his art.
Can you tell me about the way you work?
“The starting point of my work is current questions/issues concerning the environment. My background is in photojournalism and I regularly work with researchers, scientists, and activists and artists from different fields. In the long term, my work focuses on research, and I put a lot of time into familiarizing myself with current issues. Communicating issues regarding climate change through photography and video art is at the core of my way of working. I want to bring forward, on the one hand, the changes that humans have caused, but on the other hand, also the larger geological processes, that happen regardless of our actions. Some of my artwork fully reflects reality, some of it is more conceptual, but they all concern the relationship between human and nature.”
What artworks are you exhibiting at Forever Changes?
“Forever Changes features pieces from my photography series Crossings, as well as the video art piece View Above, Voice Within, which is also part of the series. Crossings represents our Earth crossing the threshold to a new geological era, from the Holocene to the Anthropocene. The Anthropocene is believed to be an era in which the effect that the human actions have had on our planet is irreversible, and Crossings represents this change of an era through glaciers.
Because of the climate crisis, the Polar Regions are warming up much faster than other areas, causing the glaciers to shrink. My aerial photographs feature the largest glacier in Europe, Vatnajökull, which is located in Iceland. Its glacier tongues have been retracting at a remarkable speed ever since 1985. Since the year 2000, 15 per cent of the entire glacier has disappeared. Iceland lost its first glacier, Okjökull, in 2014, and according to predictions, Iceland will lose all 400 of its glaciers by the year 2200. My artwork illustrates this change as well as highlighting what the future holds.”
Forever Changes is organised at the same time as the COP-26 climate change summit in Glasgow. How do you view the role art has in the climate change debate?
“The question is whether or not art is political. The official part of the climate change summit concerns international politics, but all the surrounding activism supports the common goal in many different ways. As an artist, I see myself as creating something between aesthetic art and political art, and I hope that I through that can find different audiences. My personal aim is to start conversations and find audiences on a broader spectrum, not just those who are very knowledgeable about the topics I examine. That’s how I see all of this coming together: political decision-making, societal discussion as well as art and communication, that is, broader societal impact in all of its different forms.”
How can art have an impact in the discussion on climate change?
“Personally, I see my role as an artist best described as some sort of communicator. Climate change and other environmental issues are often topics that are quite difficult to approach. With my work, I don’t want to just highlight flaws, but also remind people that our environment and nature are beautiful and important and worthy of preserving. That’s why I also strive to highlight the beauty of things, and the conflict that exists between the beautiful nature of the great North and the current situation and baleful future. My artwork can hopefully be viewed as either beautiful landscape photographs, sad reminders of the current situation or warnings of what the future holds – and all of these different viewpoints can hopefully contribute to the way people see their own impact on different environmental issues.
My collaboration with experts in different fields highlights this. Few people read climate reports or scientific studies as they are, so communication that happens on many different levels is necessary, so that people with different starting-points can identify with these issues and get an understanding of these topics that are quite hard to perceive.”
What do you personally want to express with your art?
“I want to draw attention to current environmental issues. My artwork series Crossings shows a change that we should all be worried about. The most worrying thing about these images is that the areas we picture as white glaciers are turning black as a consequence of climate change, as centuries of particle layers are exposed as the ice melts. The black coal is visible, and the amount of particles that have collected on the surface of the glaciers during the entire industrial era grows and grows, furthering the phenomenon, as the black surface absorbs the rays from the sun, unlike white ice, which would reflect the rays back to space. The burning of coal and oil that the Northern hemisphere has done during the past centuries is visible in the photographs I’ve taken of these glaciers.
I also want to remind people that everyone can affect environmental issues, and that there is nothing too small or too large that you can do. Even though no one can stop climate change on their own, small actions in one’s neighbourhood have an impact. And as rich, Western people, we have big opportunities to make an impact, and thus also the responsibility to act in every possible way.”
Text: Matilda Lindblom
Photo: Lasse Lecklin