Pining for an Iceberg: Photography Instructor Greg Lock's Journey to the Arctic
Pining for an Iceberg: Photography Instructor Greg Lock's Journey to the Arctic

By Wendy Carlson

Three years ago, Greg Lock, director of photography, film and related media, first laid eyes on a tabular iceberg while chaperoning a student trip to Antarctica. The sheer enormity of the mile-long, translucent blue slab captivated him.

Soon, these massive ice forms became a full-blown obsession, and Lock tried to finagle his way back to Antarctica several times to see more of them. An acquaintance offered him a ride on a Chilean army vessel heading to the Antarctic peninsula. He nearly caught a plane to Ushuaia, Argentina, the southernmost city in the world, to meet an ornithologist who promised to get him on a senior citizen's cruise. Neither of these attempts panned out.

But last summer, thanks to the Robert Hawkins Fund, one of the School's 20 endowed funds for faculty professional development and summer travel programs, Lock was able to commune with icebergs once again — this time in the Arctic, on the opposite end of the world. The fund allowed Lock to participate in The Arctic Circle, a residency program for artists, scientists, architects, and educators, who pursue personal projects while living aboard a 100-year-old brigantine.

Lock, who was selected from among 300 applicants for the expedition, said that programs like The Arctic Circle challenge him and keep him engaged with his art. "And in doing that, I can teach students how to engage with the world from an artist's point of view," he said.

In his own work, Lock uses photographs to interpret the sensation of being in space and experiencing form. Using a series of photographs, he generates virtual, 3-D versions of the original subjects. He then takes photos of these objects; sometimes, he makes sculptures from the virtual renderings.

The Arctic expedition allowed him to focus on his art, albeit in freezing temperatures and cramped living quarters, as he and the 25 other participants sailed from Svalbard, the world's northernmost town, through open seas and sheltered fjords.

The group stopped for several hours each day to explore the frozen landscape, wandering over glaciers and shorelines that were often littered with trash washed in from the currents. Some artists submerged cameras into the ocean to photograph the swirling, green-blue turbulence; others, struck by the soft light and the snowy peaks that faded into the distance, drew inspiration from the icy landscape. Lock himself spent several hours scooting around an iceberg in a rubber Zodiac, taking photos and recording the sounds of lapping waves, creaking ice, and the occasional whale song.

Besides experiencing the beauty of the landscape, one of the most memorable parts of the residency was being among fellow artists and working together creatively, said Lock. The group visited the ironically named Lloyds Hotel of Möllerfjorden, a remote emergency shelter the size of a shipping container, where they set up a temporary exhibition of their work. They created their own on-board newspaper, featuring headlines like "Cheese Doodle Stains Glacier." They brought back ice chips from their excursions to use in cocktails, and on several occasions, they jumped into the icy water — for about 30 seconds.

In the end, Lock left the Arctic without seeing another tabular iceberg; those giant ice formations mostly occur in the Weddell Sea in the Antarctic, where some of the largest ice shelves are found.

But he did experience something equally astonishing.

Some 600 miles south of the North Pole, their ship moored at the "frozen sea," the point at which the ocean turns completely into ice. There, spiky slabs jutted out of the ocean, creating an eerie, desolate landscape. Feeling a bit like Shackleton, Lock left the boat with the group to venture out in what seemed to him an otherworldly place. "We were walking in places no one had been before," Lock said. "It was incredible — like we were at the top of the world, which, really, we were."

This story appears in the fall 2016 issue of Hotchkiss Magazine.