In 1999, Camille Seaman gave up her seat on a one-hour flight from Oakland to L.A. and scored a round trip ticket anywhere in the world. She chose Alaska. Once there, she decided to walk from a coastal town named Kotzebue across the ice towards Russia. After feeling cold, lost, and somewhat panicked, she had a moment where she stopped, looked around, and felt a connection to the earth. That one moment ignited a passion for Arctic landscapes that she turned into a career.
When did you get started as a photographer?
Not until I was 32 did the switch come on that I needed to use the camera as the tool.
What caused that switch to come on?
It was two things. Most specifically it was the fact that I went to high school in Manhattan. One of the jobs I had was as a bike messenger, and I used to deliver things to the World Trade Center all the time. Also, just being a student in New York, all of these pictures of me and my punk rock friends had those towers in the back. So that, when they fell, I had these pictures that had a very different meaning. I understood for the first time the importance of a photograph as a historic document—you know, proof that these buildings existed.
At the same time, I had a child, and she was almost two, and it seemed strange to me that she wouldn't know those buildings the way that I did.
And so, I actually remember the moment. I was watching one of those CNN reports. We were attacking Iraq and there were all of these cool night vision scenes of bomb exploding, and I just remember thinking, What can I do to counter all this negative cynicism? It just seemed so bleak. I remember watching the TV and thinking the only thing I could do was make pictures. And just like that a switch came on. I knew that I wanted to use a camera to show that there were some pretty amazing things about life and about this planet.