The Human Element stars renowned photographer James Balog (of Chasing Ice fame). “When I became a photographer, I wanted to celebrate the elegance and beauty of Nature,” James notes. “But, I soon realized there was a more complex story going on about the collision between people against nature.”
“I feel a great sense of urgency to bear witness to the historic moment that we’re in. These changing conditions in our world are not an abstraction – they’re real and immediate and urgent,” James adds.
Balog shares compassion and heart, exuberantly and tenaciously aiming to reach a new audience with his ongoing work. Balog and director Matthew Testa appeal on a relatable, emotional, personal level. Balog uses his camera to reveal how environmental change is affecting the lives of everyday Americans, reaching beyond his historical audience of environmentalists.
“Balog’s ultimate hope is not to preach, but to use art to raise awareness of the interconnectivity between nature and a singular, all-powerful force on earth: The Human Element,” The Sherbino writes.
Considering Earth, Air, Water, Fire — and the Fifth Element people — James continues, “An imbalance in one element leads to an imbalance in another. People are the only elements that can choose to restore balance. And that gives me hope.
“Our deeds are leaving their imprints in the fabric of time. And what I want to do is bring this story to life.”
Recording climate change patterns in the most intricate detail is not new to James Balog. Balog is compelled to get what he intends to get, such as in his Extreme Ice Survey (EIS), a time-lapse photography project. He had 28 cameras deployed at 13 glaciers in Greenland, Iceland, the Nepalese Himalaya, Alaska, and the Rocky Mountains of the US. The cameras recorded changes in the glaciers every half hour, year-round, during daylight, yielding approximately 8,000 frames per camera per year. He edited the time-lapse images into stunning videos that reveal how fast climate change is transforming large regions of the planet.
Now, in The Human Element, Balog follows the four classical elements — air, earth, fire, and water — to frame his journey. Balog explores wildfires, hurricanes, sea level rise, coal mining, and changes in the air we breathe.
The Human Element tells an urgent story. It is also an extended wish for a more balanced relationship between humanity and nature.
“We, humans, are a force of nature. At the same time, human activities alter the basic elements of life – earth, air, water, and fire – those elements change human life in turn. In this riveting and visually rich drama, blending art and science, we follow renowned environmental photographer James Balog as he explores wildfires, hurricanes, sea level rise, a struggling coal mining community, and our changing air supply.”