"Joan Myers photographs a harsh Antarctica seldom seen. Think Antarctica, and the mind flashes on dapper penguins' elegant and goofy--toddling over the crystalline glaciers and belly flopping into the chilly blue sea. They're the cutest critters around and all dressed up with no place to go.
Penguins are about all most people know of this frozen island bigger than Australia. That's because the photographers (and camera crews) who go to Antarctica wisely hover close to the security of their ships.
But as this extraordinary picture shows, when penguins gather to molt or mate they walk inland, to a very different Antarctica. At fresh-water ponds such as Gold Harbor (shown here), they congregate by the tens of thousands. Here their image changes utterly: they become dignified, aloof, indifferent to observers,
'Antarctica has never been inhabited. It remains an alien outpost, overcast and harsh, colonized by a few hundred scientists who find themselves perched on the surface of a world mostly unphotographed. It is the most mysterious and intriguing setting I've ever encountered.'
Those are Joan Myers' words, and they go a long way toward explaining why the long-time Santa Fe resident received the 2003 Eliot Porter Prize. Her selection was announced this week by the New Mexico Council on Photography.
The prize, named after the great color photographer Eliot Porter (1901-1990) is given every other year to a state resident engaged in a long-term project of unusual merit. Myers has been working on hers for more than three years, sustained in part by a grant from National Science Foundation. It has taken her from the coasts all the way to the South Pole.
Abigail Adler, president of the photography Council, noted in a statement that competition for the award (which carries a $5000 prize) was particularly intense this year. "No one can apply for this," she says. 'They must be nominated by an institution, curator, or other qualified judge. At least a half-dozen nominees had projects worthy of the award," Adler said. "Our jurors deliberated for a very long time. In the end, they selected the Antarctica photos because the level of craft was so high, the project so rigorously focused, and because the prints themselves were so original. We could not tear our eyes away."
Adler notes that Myers has undertaken one ambitious project after another during the past 25 years. They range from photographs of Japanese internment camps from World War II, to intimate portraits of mature women, to photographs taken on the legendary Santa Fe Trail between here and Independence, Missouri. According to Adler, these black and white photographs, many of them in panoramic format and printed on lush platinum paper are "unfailingly accomplished, and always powerful in their uncanny serenity."
Adler adds: "Joan Myers has one of the best photography websites around. Check out www.joanmyers.com where you'll find not only pictures from all her projects but also her engaging journals which detail her adventures in Antarctica."
Eliot Porter, who lived in Santa Fe for much of his life, is widely considered the father of large format color photography. In addition to cash award, the Council will purchase a print from the winning portfolio and donate it to the University of New Mexico.
The New Mexico Council on Photography was set up in 1985, as a non-profit enterprise for serious photography in New Mexico. Through grants and contributions, it supports photographers, students, collectors, museums, and educators."
Michael More, New Mexico Council on Photography.