Bernhard Edmaier's search for white

The German landscape photographer has found the sum of all spectral colours surprisingly ellusive
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Gates Glacier, Alaska, USA by Bernhard Edmaier from EarthArt
Gates Glacier, Alaska, USA by Bernhard Edmaier from EarthArt

Bernhard Edmaier's magnificent collection of aerial photographs of the planet shows in sumptuous detail just how all the colours of the spectrum are represented on earth, from vivid oranges to rich greens, from molten reds to subtle wisps of violet, all of them the result of natural, geological and chemical processes over the course of billions of years.

One colour that does not occur very often, strangely, is white, which actually represents the sum of all spectral colours. We are familiar with images of the polar icecaps and glaciers, the latter of which are generously represented by Edmaier. The Gate Glacier, for instance, in Alaska, is captured as a mixture of ice and meltwater, with the glacier forced to negotiate an escarpment, at the foot of which the glacial mass forms into ridges. It's here that that we see two isolated blue blobs of glacial water collect, like fugitive motifs from a Joan Miró canvas.

A spread from the White chapter of Bernhard Edmaier's EarthArt
A spread from the White chapter of Bernhard Edmaier's EarthArt

You may be more surprised to learn that white can also be found in hot deserts - at the lowest point of Death Valley, for example, where a white salt crust covers a pool fed by springs in a basin 86 metres below sea level. As with so many of Edmaier's images, it is so stunning as to appear unearthly. Earthly, however, is exactly what it is, both a feast for the eyes and an expansion of our knowledge of the planet we inhabit.

Conversely, his photograph of Mount Tasman in New Zealand is a glorious affirmation of a mental picture more familiar to us - a snow-capped mountainscape, here revealed in its pure white cloak of snow, undisturbed all the year round.

To find our more, read this piece, about the science and beauty of Edmaier's Grand Canyon. You can also leaf through a gallery of images here, and have the book's editor, Alex Stetter, introduce the title, here. Phaidon Club members can download a chapter of the book. Not a member? Then join here. And once you've done all that, buy the book from the people who made it, here.


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