Musings: Daniel Zvereff’s Infrared Introspective
When artist Daniel Zvereff saw Richard Mosse’s “Infra” film project from the Congo, he knew he had to find a way to make the most of the discontinued, magenta-hued film. Known as “Kodak Aerochrome,” this film was originally intended for aerial photography to indicate areas of vegetation in surveys and to find camouflaged military encampments. Kodak describes it as “infrared-sensitive, false-color reversal film.” Plant life turns to a majestic red or purple hue while non-plant life often renders in grey or blue.
Zvereff, who is primarily a designer and illustrator, decided that the best way to take advantage of the film’s unusual properties was to take an epic trip to the Arctic. It seemed appropriate to use a quickly expiring plant-centric film to document the rapidly changing landscapes there. “I really wanted to create something that embodied adventure and free spirit but at the same time have an underlying concept to tie it all together.”
He also decided to keep a journal and draw illustrations of the places he visited. For him the journals were “a combination of my own thoughts and the inspiration I receive from other cultures and experiences all mashed together.”
Zvereff’s trip required a lot of time, patience and flexibility. “Knowing that the film reacts to chlorophyll in plants, I planned my trip within a three month window in the summer, considering the photographs wouldn’t come out as I had envisioned if everything was covered in snow.” While his original concept centered around the arctic, Zvereff’s trip ended up spanning Iceland, Greenland, Spain, Russia, Svalbard, Kenya, England, Alaska, and the Northern Yukon.
“I decided I would start in Greenland, where the ice is melting and traditional hunting practices are shrinking. Simultaneously, the ice melt has opened up natural resources to mining and oil companies and altered Greenland’s economy and social makeup. I wanted to document it with a film that was no longer in existence.”
“As long as I can remember I’ve had this fascination with Greenland,” he continued. To me it was always surrounded by mystery. It was so big—right in the middle of the map—and somehow I had never met anyone who had been there.”
One particular experience from Greenland stands out as a highlight of his trip. “My first impression of Greenland was in Kulusuk,” Zvereff says. “I was walking alone down the road from the airport to the center of town. There was so much fog everywhere I couldn’t see 20 feet ahead of me. As I neared the town I could hear the strange high-pitched squeals of sled dogs that were chained to the ground. They had thick metal 15-foot long chains, and they looked like filthy wolves. Beautiful, but if you have never experienced them before it can be intimidating. Near them, a hunter and his son were gutting freshly caught seals they had captured earlier that morning. They looked at me and smiled and told me I could hang out with them, they were so kind. I remember feeling so stunned, it was such visceral experience. Greenland’s culture and environment those few days in Kulusuk really sparked this creativity within me.”
Throughout the journey, Zvereff was intent on keeping his costs low and the quality of his experience high. “Every portion of this trip was very open-ended and free. It was about me figuring out ways to get to some of these remote locations on a budget.” Although some of the places were originally supposed to just be stopovers, they ended up becoming part of the journey.
“Our world is beautiful and inspiring. In an age where nearly every part of our world is visually available at our fingertips, it can still surprise us in ways we can’t even imagine.”
As for the film itself, it is literally all gone. Zvereff says his supplier purchased a bulk roll from Kodak years ago and cut it down into different film formats. He is completely out now, save a few rolls on Ebay that go for around $100 per roll.
See more of Daniel Zvereff’s work on his website, and follow him on Instagram.