Gina Glover (UK)
The Metabolic Landscape
“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.”
The great Scottish-American naturalist John Muir inspired Ansel Adams and led to the creation of the U.S. National Park Service. Muir, a devoted follower of Charles Darwin, understood, like Darwin, that all living things are connected, that they rely on a shared environment, and that nature can provoke a profound sense of wonder.
Photographing the Icelandic landscape provided me an emotional connection to nature. Its wild, empty places gave me a sense of personal vulnerability, but also made me conscious of the vulnerability of the environment itself. Looking at energy cycles and their feedback effects on nature provoked a fuller appreciation of climate change. It led me to the concept for The Metabolic Landscape where my photographs confront viewers with the natural metabolism of the Earth and the newer social metabolism established by humans.*
For millennia, the climate balance was set by the carbon emissions of volcanoes and the absorption of carbon dioxide back into the world’s oceans and forests. Today, the burning of fossil fuels has shifted that balance.
Although we know that the Earth’s average surface temperature has increased by 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit (0.8 degrees Celsius) since the 1880s, driven by human-caused emissions, it is another thing to witness the effects firsthand. Muir was more right than he realized: Everything is connected. Environmental destruction, once thought to be localized, now ripples across the planet. My photographs investigate the connections between the burning of coal, the main source of the world’s electrical power, and the melting of glaciers and icebergs.
In land adjacent to one of Muir’s beloved national parks, I came to recognize other connections, as fracking operations for oil in North Dakota graphically revealed to me the power of the hydrocarbon industry. Now when I engage in the complexities of this work, I follow Muir, understanding that facts and feelings must go together.
*Gina Glover, “Sites of Energy,” in The Metabolic Landscape: Perception, Practice and the Energy Transition, eds. Gina Glover, Geof Rayner, and Jessica Rayner (London: Black Dog Publishing, 2014).
After early training in London at the Chelsea School of Art, followedby photography studies at University of Westminster, Gina Glover co-founded London’s Photofusion Photography Centre in the 1980s. She is a recipient of the Royal Photographic Society’s Hood Medal, the Visions of Science Photographic Award (twice) from Novartis and The Daily Telegraph, awards from Arts Council England, and in 2016 a Wellcome Trust grant linked to Cambridge University.
Glover’s work ranges from playful explorations of the biomedical sciences, to long-term studies of ways in which the landscape has been altered by human conflict and economic development, to psychological studies of human perception. She employs varied photographic techniques, from lens-less photography, to conventional and alternative processing, to digital design. Glover is currently working on two projects. The first tackles the theme of anthropogenic alterations of the landscape linked to climate change, addressing deserts and water, flux and flow. Her second examines genetics and in vitro fertilization, working in association with the Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience at Cambridge University and Bourn Hall Clinic in Cambridgeshire, U.K.
Glover’s previous projects include her twenty-year exploration of war-associated sites and locations, Playgrounds of War, which was exhibited at the 2009 Guangzhou Photo Biennial at the Guangdong Museum of Art, China, and at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brusselsin 2012, as well as in galleries around the U.K. They also include her lens-less landscape project Liminal World, which was exhibited at Hoopers Gallery, London, in 2010 and at Le Cinq in Rabastens, France,in 2013. Glover’s biomedically-based photographic art is exhibited in more than twenty hospitals, clinics, and private collections across the world, including the Gregor Mendel Institute of Molecular Plant Biology, Vienna. Her 2014 book The Metabolic Landscape: Perception,Practice and the Energy Transition (London: Black Dog Publishing, 2014) is co-authored with Geof Rayner and Jessica Rayner. Her other books include Objects of Colour: Baltic Coast (2008) and Playgrounds of War (2009), both published by Foxhall Publishing Ltd., Kettering, Northamptonshire, U.K.