Mount Kilimanjaro is iconic and mythical. Its flat-topped, ice-covered summit rises dramatically from the surrounding lowlands of Tanzania to a height of 19,341 feet above sea-level. Due to their latitude, Kilimanjaro’s “tropical” glaciers are particularly susceptible to sunlight and climate fluctuations. The glaciers have thinned by 85% over the last century, and nearly half of that loss occurred between 2000 and 2011.
As the highest mountain in Africa, over 16,000 tourists attempt to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro every year. Many are drawn by the dramatic glacier landscape. These tourists employ hundreds of local Tanzanians who carry all the food and equipment needed for each expedition. The (mostly) men who are employed in this trade are, thus, intimately connected to the mountain’s landscape. As the glaciers continue to melt and disappear, the men whose livelihoods depend on Kilimanjaro’s glaciers will be dramatically impacted.
In 2016 van Coller travelled to Tanzania with renowned tropical glacier scientist Dr. Douglas R. Hardy to document the rapidly melting glaciers on the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro, and to make portraits of the Tanzanian porters. This project reflects van Coller’s recent focus on creating projects that bring art and science together in an effort to make the monumental issue of climate change both tangible and comprehensible on a human scale.
Ian van Coller was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1970, and grew up in the country during a time of great political turmoil. These formative years became integral to the subject matter van Coller has pursued throughout his artistic career. His work has addressed complex cultural issues of both the Apartheid and post-Apartheid eras, especially in regard to cultural identity in the face of globalization, and the economic realities of every-day life.
Van Coller’s most recent work focuses on environmental issues related to climate change and deep time. These projects have centered on the production of large scale artist books, as well as direct collaborations with paleo-climatologists. Ian van Coller is a Professor of Photography at the Montana State University, Montana