Germany-based photographer Johannese Huwe‘s journey to the southernmost continent is akin to a classic adventure. The expedition began traveling from Germany to Ushuaia, Argentina, the southernmost city in the world. From Ushuaia, Huwe embarked on the expedition ship L’Austral and spent the summer months at the Mediterranean.
“The fact that the ship was not built for extreme conditions soon became abundantly clear to us. It worked to my advantage, though, since I was assigned to a suite, despite having only booked a basic cabin. The door connecting the two cabins wouldn’t close and that’s how I ended up in a double cabin, or rather, suite,” said Huwe to Lomography Magazine.
The first leg of the Journey was on South Georgia Island, where a colony of king penguins were found at St. Andrew’s Bay, followed by sailing through icebergs of the infamous Drake Passage.
“Just as throughout the entirety of our Antarctic expedition, we are treated to an unbelievable array of colors and light in a rich variety of moods.” added Huwe.
Huwe photographed the expedition with a Hasselblad medium format camera and a Leica camera.
“The Antarctic light is particularly impressive. The sun’s position during the Antarctic summer means it never gets dark and the landscape is always swathed in a special light.”
Learn more about Huwe’s expedition through his in-depth conversation with Lomography Magazine.
Hi Johannes! Welcome to Lomography Magazine. Firstly, we’d like to ask what interested you to go to the southern region of the earth, Antarctica?
As a photographer, I specialise in the areas of adventure and landscape. What could therefore be better than undertaking an expedition to the end of the world – to the Antarctic? My main interest beforehand was in the landscape and less so in the animal kingdom. I think I was probably the only one on our expedition ship who wasn’t there primarily for the wildlife.
How did you fare with the cold climate? What were the necessary preparations you made? Which mode of transportation did you take?
The Antarctic summer is the only time of year when it is possible to travel to the Antarctic, so from December to January. The ice melts just enough at this time of year to allow icebreaker ships to visit this amazing world. The highest temperatures at this time of year hover around the freezing point, so for me as a German this is not an unusual temperature. Since I mostly photograph using analogue Leica M rangefinder cameras which work mechanically without any batteries, I had no problems using the camera at these temperatures.
Many photographers dream to visit this isolated area of the world. As a photographer, may you share us the little details you’ve noticed when photographing the landscape?
The Antarctic light is particularly impressive. The sun’s position during the Antarctic summer means it never gets dark and the landscape is always swathed in a special light. Opportunities to photograph on the ground are somewhat limited.
During shore excursions, paths are marked out with little lags and are scrupulously observed to protect nature. This is a sensible measure for protecting the local ecosystem; however, as a photographer I know that the best pictures are often found away from the beaten path. My photo projects also have a documentary background, i.e. I always work with a Jixed focal length of 35mm. Here, I often felt limited when objects such as icebergs were too far away from the ship and I sometimes missed not having a zoom function.
To travel is to learn more about an unfamiliar place. What did you learn during your trip?
It’s true that there is plenty to discover and experience on such an expedition. At any rate, I learned that everything I thought I knew about wind and storms (and I have been to Iceland) feels like a “light breeze” when compared with the strong winds in the Antarctic. Just before Cape Horn we experienced almost 100 mile per hour side winds and the ship tilted so much that I struggled to stay under the shower jet when showering as this tilt affected the shower wall.
We were not allowed to leave the cabins during this time due to the risk of doors slamming and other things Jlying through the ship. The journey is therefore better suited to adventurists than cruise tourists.
Traveling the south alone (especially as a personal goal) is a challenge. What other challenges did you face?
The expedition to the Antarctic was challenging in a few areas.
I had a rather different challenge in Greenland when I decided to portray the locals there. I searched for old houses which told a story just from their appearance alone and knocked on the doors. If the inhabitants opened the door to me, I would use body language to try and explain that I wanted to portray their home. It worked, despite not speaking the same language, and I often found myself in living rooms moving furniture around to create the right background motif for the photo.
What was the most memorable part of your travel here?
Even though I travelled to the Antarctic because of the landscape, the animal life was extremely fascinating too. Different kinds of animals living together, but also the insanely large penguin colonies with up to 500,000 animals.
Ice and water makes up most of Antarctica, making it one of the most unique wonderlands in our world. As a photographer, how do you think can art contribute to preserving the natural conditions here (against global warming)?
As a photographer I can always do my bit by attempting to capture the beauty of this world and hopefully raising awareness of the need to preserve such a natural wonder. However, that is of course just a tiny drop in the ocean.
Lastly, what’s next for you? Do you have a current project or plan? Where’s the next destination for you?
I am just on my way back from Norway where I spent some time living out of my Land Rover Defender adventure-mobile and really enjoyed the wilderness. Next time, I’d like to travel further north and discover Lofoten for myself.