After viewing many of the featured photographers on the Annenberg Space for Photography’s website, the artist who inspired me the most was George Steinmetz. Not only do we share the same first name but we also share a sense of wonder about the natural world and a compelling love of science. Steinmetz, a regular contributor to National Geographic, seeks to capture some of the remaining vestiges of mystery in an ever shrinking globe. From the deserts to the poles, from the coasts to the mountains, Mr. Steinmetz entwines the natural world with an aspect of human emotion and experience to engage his audience to participate in the unordinary and unknown.
Though his images of natural landscapes often leave you entranced and awe inspired, it is his ability to depict the candid beauty of obscure indigenous cultures that truly sets him apart from other photographers. On his website he features a catalogue of images taken in 1995 of a previously uncontacted tribe from Papua New Guinea. The Korowai and Kombai live in tree dwellings, believe in sorcery and are said to participate in cannibalism. In his attempt to document their vanishing way of life, Steinmetz presents his subjects in a variety of lights. At times he takes more a more intimate approach with portraits or slightly pulled back representations of daily indigenous life. In other instances he relies on a more distant vantage point through the use of climbing techniques in order to truly depict these tree dwellers in their lush and vibrant jungle habitat.
Steinmetz also portrays another interesting topic concerning global sea rise in his “Rising Seas” series. This feature contains photos documenting massive infrastructure created by countries like the Netherlands, the United States and Russia who are in a constant battle with the forces of nature. He also depicts the predicament of island nations like the Maldives and the Philippines who are extremely vulnerable to predictions of a rising sea. He relies on aerial photography for the majority of these images.
George Steinmetz’s photographs are truly a pleasure to behold. They accurately depict the contrast of human development and natural processes, as well as the occasions of synchronicity between mother nature and her inhabitants.