In all reality, it is likely the second most famous iceberg in history, second only to that big bastard that reminded man to be humble in front of nature as it gouged the Titanic. But as far as pictures go, it probably wears the crown, and as such, you’ve likely seen it – the iceberg showing the tip out of the water, and the masses of it hidden underneath. Either it’s been flashed across your computer screen as a meme, spread across magazines as a feature or in marketing material, or the ever favored ‘Imagination’ motivational poster.
What you may not know, however, is who it was shot by, what it took to make it, that it’s sort of an illusion, or that as a stock image it’s pulled in about $900K thus far. Intriguing? Of course, and so is the man behind it, photographer Ralph A. Clevenger, part of the faculty at the Brooks Institute. In 2012, photographer Frederick Van Johnson interviewed Clevenger where he shared its story.
The shot was made in 1998, and I say made in the sense that it’s not a pure single image, but rather the resulting composite of 4 medium format slides, that happened to be taken all at different locations on our vast planet. Yes, they were shot on film, developed, and pieced together in Photoshop ‘back in the day.’ That he was able to create something so seamless and beautiful even with a rudimentary version of Photoshop is impressive in and of itself. In good form, there is no pretense on the side of Clevenger, who has never pawned it off as a single unadulterated image. He says of it,
All of my composite work is done so you don’t really think about that it’s a composite. So, I’m trying to recreate things that I’ve seen or that I want to see that I can’t photograph — doesn’t exist — the technology, can’t do it with lenses or whatever it is. But more importantly, it’s coming up with the idea, the concept, of how to make a composite real for people, rather than just a montage of a bunch of different pictures put together, you know, and so I think you have to get past the technology. People have to look at it and go, “Gosh, it’s absolutely beautiful. I saw it that way, but I’ve never seen a picture like that.
And that’s possibly the one of the more enlightened explanations of a photographer’s approach I’ve heard. Pretenses be damned!
There’s much that can be extrapolated from his candid interview and explanation about the image and the process behind it. Hopefully, it serves as inspiration and a confidence booster to those that see things that aren’t necessarily there but in your mind’s eye and aim to bring that out in an image. Your photos are your vision after all.