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July 07

French Photographer Christian Morel has embarked on a unique body of work photographing around 200 scientific projects during the International Polar Year (IPY) initiative – and he will be reporting regularly for CPN from the Arctic and Antarctic.

© Christian Morel

With the backing of Canon, and funding from various organisations, Christian has launched ‘Our Polar Heritage’ (OPH), a photographic project aimed at increasing public awareness of the work of scientists in the polar regions and its global significance. OPH is the only project of its type fully endorsed by IPY, which began in March this year and involves 50,000 people from more than 60 countries.
IPY has been organised through the International Council for Science and the World Meteorological Organization and covers two full annual cycles from March 2007 to March 2009. It is actually the fourth polar year initiative, following those in 1882-3, 1932-3, and 1957-8. It examines a wide range of physical, biological and social research topics, such as how the ice caps and climate are changing, and what affect this is having on the inhabitants of these icy frontiers.
Christian Morel has travelled, worked in and photographed the polar regions for more than 20 years, as well as shooting for agencies and companies such as Renault, Ford, IBM and Air France.

© Christian Morel

“There will be some other images from IPY, but ‘Our Polar Heritage’ is the only photographic project covering such a wide range of the IPY science activities,” he told CPN.
He has already made two trips to both the east and west coasts of the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen. Over the next few months he will be reporting from the north of Sweden where a Scottish team will be studying flowers, and again from Spitsbergen for a study of marine sediments. After that he travels to Greenland to work with a French group looking at carbon levels. He then hopes to go to the Antarctic during the northern winter and stay there for up to two months.

Most of his trips will be funded by private companies and he is attempting to secure a bursary from his home city of Grenoble. He also plans to sell images to various magazines. “I hope that it will be much more than just a series of photographic reports,” he said. “In the end, we want to put together exhibitions and books. The project that Canon is supporting will help people to understand the fragility of polar eco-systems and the challenges for their inhabitants. It will show why we believe that in those places is hidden the memory of our future.” Canon is providing Christian with much of his photographic equipment.

Christian’s polar equipment:


  • 3 x EOS-1Ds Mark II


  • EF 14mm f/2.8L USM
  • EF 20mm f/2.8 USM
  • EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM
  • EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM
  • EF 28-70mm f/2.8L USM
  • EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM
  • EF 300mm f/4L IS USM
  • EF 135mm f/2L USM
  • EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM
  • TS-E 90mm f/2.8


  • Extender EF 1.4x II
  • 2x Canon Speedlite 580EX
  • Batteries
  • CF and SD Sandisk Extreme IV memory cards
  • Canon Media Storage M80 external drives
  • Apple Powerbook G4 laptop
  • Portable studio flashes
  • Special continuous lights
  • Some filters and polarisers
  • Gitzo and Manfrotto tripods