With a ceremonial start in Lima, Peru, on January 7, a group of 334 competitors started the 41st annual Dakar Rally: a 10-day, 3,000-mile (5,000 kilometer) off-roading adventure held exclusively in Peru this year. The vehicles—which include specialized cars, trucks, motorcycles, and quad bikes—are currently on stage 9 of 10 stages that travel south to Tacna, then back to Lima on January 17. Here is a look at Dakar 2019 in progress, as teams race to the finish line.
I travelled to Peru in July 2018 with the intention of continuing my Lux Noctis project at Pastoruri, one of the few glaciers that still exist at the tropics in the Cordillera Blanca at an altitude of 17,000ft. This glacier is receding at a shocking rate due to climate change and as a result there has been a huge drop in tourism and an impact on the local community.
Lux Noctis, my larger project, is about presenting familiar sights in a new and unfamiliar light, renewing your sense of seeing and the experience of discovery. However, with this series, I felt like this was an attempt to document and preserve the memory of a landscape in peril which may not exist in a decade.
At 17,000ft, it was a physical challenge to reach the glacier, compounded by the fact that I was shooting at night and under freezing conditions. For this expedition, I was accompanied by a production company (Courageous Studio) who were shooting a short film on my work for Great Big Story, sponsored by Coors Lite, and they assisted in all the research, scouting, and getting me out to the glacier safely. Flying the drone at this altitude presented a number of problems. Firstly, the cold made me lose sensation in my fingers, so it was difficult to control the lighting at the same time as the camera. The cold also significantly shortened battery life, and limited my flight time. Being out in a remote wilderness meant that there was no way I could recharge my batteries, so there was only so much time I had to shoot.
I photographed the glacier with conflicting feelings. I wanted to show evidence of its alarming retreat, yet I was drawn to the epic scale of the ice which remained. In the end I leaned towards the latter, but each photograph represents a bleak reality, a fading memory of what once stood. Reuben Wu
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