Magda Biernat

MAGDA BIERNAT (b.1978) A native of Poland currently based in New York City, Magda Biernat is a contemporary art photographer specializing in architecture and interiors and is the former photo editor of Metropolis Magazine. She received her MFA in New Media from Transart Institute in Berlin and New York. Her photographs have been published in, among others, The New Yorker, The New York Times, Interior Design, Wallpaper, Metropolis, Dwell and Afar. Biernat’s personal work deals with themes of home, habitation and belonging and has been exhibited both nationally and internationally with exhibitions in Poland, Belgium, France, Canada, The Philippines, Taiwan and the United States. She has been the recipient of several awards, such as the TMC/Kodak Grant, Lucie Foundation Awards and Magenta Foundation Flash Forward. Biernat recently returned from a year long photo project taking her from Antarctica to Alaska which has been featured monthly on The New Yorker’s photo blog. Today we share her series, Adrift. 

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Adrift is a project that uses a visual language as a means of polar comparison. By pairing photographs of Antarctic icebergs and empty Iñupiat Eskimo hunting cabins, it offers a restrained commentary on the parallel effects of global climate change at opposite ends of the Earth. In 2013 I traveled from the Antarctic to the Arctic Circle, through seventeen countries in the Americas. I documented dwellings, how human habitation responds to and reflects harsh landscapes, and the means with which societies adapt to changing climates, both cultural and physical. During the journey I was drawn to subjects which were both a departure from my work yet still felt like a familiar target: organic and inorganic structures succumbing to the effects of a warming planet.

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As an architectural photographer, I’ve focused my personal work primarily on the built environment and the relationship between natural and man-made landscapes, on their coexistence, contrast and overlap. My photography often explores the notions of home, habitation, displacement, the bridging of distance and lives that straddle borders. Although most of my photographs are devoid of people, I like to think that they express a great deal about the imprint humans leave on their environment.
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Average temperatures in the Arctic and Antarctic regions are rising twice as fast as they are elsewhere in the world. The rising temperatures are causing more icebergs to break off from glacial floes; polar ice is getting thinner, melting and rupturing. As they drift, the city-block-sized icebergs will disappear at a faster rate than ever before. Near the opposite pole in the Arctic, the melting of once-permanent ice is already affecting native flora, fauna and the frozen ground on which they live. Global warming is threatening the cultural identity of native people. Along a 35 km stretch of coastline in northernmost Alaska, on the ancient hunting grounds of Piqniq, the Iñupiat Eskimos have hunted for centuries, but as once massive herds of caribou dwindle and bowhead whales, walrus and seals change their feeding and migration patterns, subsistence hunting has become more difficult. Hunters move to larger towns, leaving cabins which once provided shelter adrift on the thinning ice and shifting tundra. The hunting cabins of the Inupiat are mirrors of the lone ice mountains in the south, singular polar structures under pressure by a changing ecosystem. Silent and static witnesses to change.
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To view more of Magda’s work, please visit her website.