ART BEAT – A Finger On The Pulse of The Arts in OOE

TANIS BROWNING-SHELP

OOE ARTIST FEATURE: JIM LAMONT’S PHOTOGRAPHS CAPTURE CLIMATE CHANGE, INSPIRE ACTION

Some of us got a glimpse into the world and work of photographer Jim Lamont last winter when he was the second-last artist to hold an exhibition at The Green Door Restaurant before COVID locked us out for a time. In Lamont’s own words, his photographic interest is: “the rediscovery of the Sublime in the context of global climate change.” When he refers to “the Sublime” he means not only the beauty of nature but also its most overwhelming and frightening elements.

View through iceberg, 2019. Photo by Jim Lamont

View through iceberg, 2019. Photo by Jim Lamont

COVID has bumped Lamont’s newest exhibition, DAZZLED! Images from Iceland, to 2022. But COVID hasn’t only meant rescheduling shows. “I recognize that I have a privileged existence,” Lamont says. “Due to my age and socio-economic position I am not experiencing the terrible devastation and hurt that some people are experiencing with COVID-19. But my work has been affected since travel has been shut down. The Sublime, for me, is best found in the mountains, the sea, and in the Arctic, particularly Baffin Island.”

As Raymond Aubin wrote in a review of Lamont’s exhibition A place Apart in 2015, “the photographer goes to extremes to select the points of view as well as the times of year and day that will open up the compositions he is looking for.”

Boulder on glacier edge, Baffin Island 2013. Photo by Jim Lamont

Boulder on glacier edge, Baffin Island 2013. Photo by Jim Lamont

“Baffin Island terrifies me,” Lamont says. “It makes me aware of how easily the environment can hurt you. And the Arctic itself shows the impact of climate change in a more obvious fashion than anywhere else in the world.” When Lamont and a friend travelled to Central East Baffin Island in 1997 they stood beneath a 100-foot-high glacier that went back for several kilometres. When Lamont returned 16 years later the glacier was gone and in its place, a muddy plain. “I was in a river valley, I had GPS and topographic maps, so there was no question…the glacier was gone.”

This year, Lamont sent out a photograph with his Christmas greeting of a place recently named Warming Island. “Nobody knew that it was an island until the ice started melting and revealed that it was not connected to the mainland,” he explains. Similarly, when Lamont travelled to South East Baffin with a friend in 1999 they were constantly struggling against sea ice that forced them off the water multiple times. “When I returned to the same place in 2003, I didn’t see a single piece of floating ice in three weeks of travel!”

Approaching Warming Island at dawn, 2019. Photo by Jim Lamont

Approaching Warming Island at dawn, 2019. Photo by Jim Lamont

Lamont points out that we do not realize the effect of climate change in our urban lives because we are sheltered from it. “But the Inuit have been telling us about it,” he says. “Scientists have been telling us about it. The ever-increasing number of severe hurricanes and fires and extreme weather events have been telling us about it.”

According to Lamont, travelling in the mountains, in the Arctic, and on the sea teaches patience. “You can’t always get where you want to go or when,” he says. “COVID has been like that too. The COVID experience for me has been like entering into extreme old age. Your world shrinks. You can no longer do things that once defined you. And you are forced to find other ways to remain true to yourself.”

“My wife has had a long-standing involvement with books and children. She is a retired children’s librarian. During COVID, she has found ways to reach out to young people and families. For example, she created a window display of stuffed animals that she changes regularly for the children who come by to see them.”

So far, Lamont has not had to rethink his photographic interest. “I haven’t done much new photography in the past year, but I’ve worked on personal photo book projects to review what I’ve done over the years, to clarify my philosophy, and to better understand where I want to go next.”

“I believe that we need to have hope during the pandemic and hope in the fight against global climate change. Humanity, the world and its systems are far more complex than we can fully understand and therefore cannot be fully predictable. All we can do is act on our hope—perhaps even a ‘radical hope’ (as Harvard University historical psychoanalyst Jonathon Lear put it) and trust that things will work out if we act responsibly.”

In this photograph, Lamont captures a sea lion on rocks amid waves. Photo by Jim Lamont

In this photograph, Lamont captures a sea lion on rocks amid waves. Photo by Jim Lamont

“Increasingly, now, a message of global climate change is what defines my work. I am hoping, in a very small way to urge people to act to protect the environment for our children and for our children’s children. Hope can lead to effective change. Look what we’ve done with COVID! When we have a shared global experience we can respond, and we can prevail. We only need the political will (regardless of political parties) to act upon that hope and give the powerful the responsibility to act.”

In Lamont’s next exhibition he uses the words of poet Mary Oliver who says:

“Still, what I want in my life is to be willing to be dazzled—to cast aside the weight of facts and maybe even to float a little above this difficult world…”

Author Tanis Browning-Shelp (http://www.browning-shelp.com) pens her Maryn O’Brien Young Adult Fiction series, published by Dog-Eared Books, from her home in Old Ottawa East. Contact tanis@browning-shelp.com if you have information about artists or art events that you believe would enrich our community members’ lives.

To see more of Jim Lamont’s work go to: www.jalamont.ca

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