Kentucky native Corinne Schulze is a graduate of New York’s School of Visual Arts MFA program in photography, video, and related media and currently resides in Boston. She has been the recipient of several artist residencies in the past few years that have taken her to Ireland and the Svalbard Archipelago in the Arctic Circle. Her approach to photography often involves research and strict procedural guidelines, which makes sense given that much of her work is concerned with the world of natural science. Previous projects involved collaborating with biologists and working with ancient archaeological artifacts. Her more recent endeavors, however, focus on the impact of human civilization on the natural landscape.
Her series 25 Years is the result of a two-month-long residency in County Wexford, Ireland. Around the 18th century, the native forests of Ireland were cut down to build ships and homes, and only within the last century have public and private projects been initiated to reforest the countryside. Schulze explored the uniquely contemporary biosphere of the cultivated forest, an arboreal monoculture planted on private farmland for the purpose of harvesting wood. Schulze sought out the liminal territory between the natural and the artificial in her series of elegant portraits of an environment in transition. Some of her more dramatic images recall the ancient woods described in J.R.R. Tolkien’s works of fantasy, while others point clearly to the human trace on the landscape.
One of Schulze’s more recent bodies of work, Into White, also explores the boundary between the human and natural landscape, and was made during an artist residency on board a ship in the Arctic Circle. For three weeks, Schulze and about two dozen other artists visited various ports of call, including an abandoned Russian mining town and a far-flung Norwegian science station. The primarily female boat crew doubled as bodyguards when on land in order to protect the artists from polar bears.
A portrait of an ascending weather balloon, a daily occurrence at the science station she visited, captures the breadth of the limited but subtle color palette of the far north Other images of glaciers and icebergs reveal the startling pastel hues of blue and lilac that this terrain can take on during the short days when the sun often barely breaches the horizon. Still other images recall Schulze’s interest in the human mark on the natural environment, notably the desiccated hull of a beached ship, quietly riding out the years against a barren backdrop of white. In another photograph, an excited dog bounds towards the camera amidst a relatively urban settlement that reminds us that people have made their homes in the arctic. In any project the best work is often the product of constraints. Into White serves as a fine example of Schulze’s astute eye and her ability to capture the sublime in a harsh environment.