James Balog is an American photographer whose work revolves around the relationship between humans and nature. A former mountain guide with a graduate degree in geomorphology, Balog has been a professional photographer for more than 25 years. By combining his scientific background with an innovative approach to image creation, Balog has garnered numerous awards, including the Leica Medal of Excellence, premier awards for nature and science photography from World Press Photo, the 2007 Rowell Award for the Art of Adventure and the 2008 Outstanding Photographer of the Year from the North American Nature Photography Association. He has exhibited work at more than a hundred museums and galleries around the world, and is the author of seven books. Balog was the first photographer ever commissioned to create a full plate of stamps for the U.S. Postal Service, a 1996 release featuring America’s endangered wildlife.
“I’ve basically devoted my career to looking at the relationship between humans and nature, and to looking at nature,” said Balog in an interview with Photo District News. “To me, that’s the core of my mission, and it has been and it will be until I pass out of this world. I want to do what I can to shift human understanding of who we are and what we are and how we should relate to all the rest of what’s on this planet. I want to crack through the veneer of the illusions that surround us and see inside reality more purely than you normally get to see. That’s the real witchcraft and voodoo of this artistic process we’re in. I hope that the work helps people to think and see differently—and ultimately, we can only hope, behave differently.”
The theme of man’s relationship with nature continues in Balog’s ongoing work with the Extreme Ice Survey. Through his efforts on this project and other work dealing with the environment, Balog has dedicated himself to using art to raise awareness of how humans affect their natural surroundings. As he has stated in numerous interviews, Balog views photography as a form of visual evidence that carries tremendous potential for influencing people’s perception of the world around them. “I’ve believed for a long time that photographers are like the antennae of civilization,” he said in a Professional Photographer magazine article. “We are an integral part of the sensing mechanism of the human animal. We are out there feeling in the darkness, trying to see what’s around us and reveal what hasn’t been revealed before. Not all photographers work that way, but to me that’s one of the central elements of photography. I would like to think that passionate, involved photographers would be looking at the world and trying their hardest to speak about the important things that are going on today.”