Michael Schauer “Shrouds”
“Shrouds” is a series by Michael Schauer, a self-taught photographer in Munich, Germany.
In the photographs, what appears to be an intentional abstract art installation, are actually groups of canvasses that cover parts of the Rhone glacier in southern Switzerland. These custom coverings are used to prevent the glacier from melting during the summer. The Rhone glacier is the largest glacier in the Swiss Alps and has retreated 4,600 feet since the 1850’s.
Q: These seem different from your other photos of nature, are they?
A: A bit of both, yes and no. These images are not landscape or photos in the way of beautiful spaces but rather the occurrence of beauty in a tragic place. In some way, you have to look closer and a relatable scale further pushes this concept. Whenever I shoot, I let my emotional state, recent memories, things that are in my head at that time, guide me in what I shoot and how I shoot. There is always some amount of serendipity to it and I never know exactly what I will find and how I will react to what is in front of me. With Shrouds however, what I would find and the reaction that it would cause were already known to me and I wanted to capture exactly this feeling. The feeling of watching someone slowly fade away in time. An experience, most of us can relate to.
Q: As someone who spends a lot of time capturing pristine natural environments, what was the draw to the glacier?
A: It was surely the unique look and feel of a glacier covered with blankets that drew me to it but glaciers in general have something about them that I just utterly adore. These age-old slow-moving giants are one of the most powerful forces in nature. When they change, the world changes with them. In my work I want to share this love for the beautiful cold.
Q: How did your view of the glacier change when inside of the ice caves compared to seeing the glacier from the outside?
A: The inside of the glacier is a completely different experience. What the tragic outside holds is reverted by views of light reflections everywhere, patterns that are unique to ice and the most beautiful blue colors I have ever seen. Inside the glacier, it seemed to me, there is life.
Q: How did you first come to visit/find the Rhone Glacier?
A: I knew about the Rhone Glacier before as it is located near one of Switzerland’s most famous mountain roads- the Furkapass, where James Bond - Goldfinger was shot. From a previous brief visit, I also knew that there was an ice cave so I was naturally interested in visiting just that but then I saw an award winning series by Fierz Ralph Edward showing the blankets silently shrouding the glacier.
His series was a huge inspiration for shrouds and me capturing the pictures was, at first, an experiment rather than a serious project but turned out to be one when I realized the emotional connection I had formed to the place when I took the pictures.