Inspired by the ice caves he encountered on his first trip to Iceland, photographer Ryan Newburn moved to the country and became a glacier guide. Now, he owns his own glacier tour company, which allows him to continue to explore these natural wonders and share them with the public. The photographs of his adventures give a remarkable glimpse of the frozen beauty of these caves. Often capturing a single figure exploring the icy environment, Newburn is able to juxtapose the scale of these giant caves against their explorers.
Continuously melting and reforming, the ice caves are a never-ending source of inspiration for the American photographer, who moved to Iceland 2018. “Ice caves are some of the most surreal and unique places to both experience and photograph anywhere on Earth,” Newburn tells My Modern Met. “On a planet where 99% of the world has been mapped and explored, new ice caves form every day as old ones melt away. This means that there are a never-ending amount of caves to discover and explore on the glacier. For example, the first cave that I visited back in 2016 doesn't exist anymore. What's left is just rock and open air, showing no signs that it was even there in the first place.”
Newburn's images tell an incredible story about the beauty of ice and how it shapes our world. In a time when global warming is rapidly changing how and when ice forms, his visuals are a reminder of nature's power and what we risk losing. “The ice that you see inside any given cave can date from 200-1,000 years old,” he says. “It can have ash from ancient volcanic eruptions trapped inside of it, as if locked in a time capsule, only to be uncovered at that moment. Its melting walls affect how we live even if most do not realize it, as its newly released fresh water is dumped into the ocean.”
Through his work as a photographer and as a guide, Newburn hopes to spur conversation around these glacier caves and what they mean to our planet.