From Antarctica to the Natural History Museum

If you’re planning a trip to the American Museum of Natural History this summer, there’s one exhibit with some local flavor that you’ll definitely want to check out.

Scott Sternbach, the director of LaGuardia Community College’s commercial photography program, will have his collection of photographs from a three-month journey to Antarctica displayed in the museum’s “Race to the End of the Earth” exhibition, through January 2, 2011.

“It feels fantastic because it’s a life-long dream to have my work presented in a prestigious museum such as the Museum of Natural History,” said Sternbach, 52. “The museum is taking the show on road to London, Paris, Vancouver, China and quite a few places in the next 10 years. My work will impact and get seen by even more people, showing them something they wouldn’t have been able to see otherwise.”

A National Science Foundation grant funded Sternbach’s three-month photography expedition to Antarctica in 2008. His collection, part of the exhibition’s contemporary section, contains eight large black-and-white portraits of the core of Antarctica, the researchers, biologists, pilots, cooks and boat captains he photographed at Palmer Station.

The other work on display is a 20-foot-wide mural of the Antarctica landscape that is displayed in a room called Modern Antarctica. It focuses on Mt. Luigi with a sweeping view of glaciers taken from the bridge of the Lawrence M. Gould ship Sternbach was on.

The exhibition is about explorers Norwegian Roald Amundsen and British Navy Captain Robert Falcon Scott and their journey across the Ross Ice Shelf to the South Pole and back from 1911-12. The exhibit also contains photos of Antarctica taken by other photographers.

Through his photos, Sternbach said he strove to create a typology of the people who work in Antarctica.

“By looking at the individual characteristics of the people who occupy Antarctica,” he said, “the viewer can then begin to understand the place since people are a reflection of what they do and where they exist.”

Because of his experience, Sternbach has gained confidence through approaching intimidating people and being able to break through and connect with them.

“There is nothing quite like being in Antarctica. It was a unique experience,” said Sternbach, who has been at LaGuardia Community College since 1997.

Although Sternbach looks for light, form and composition as a precursor for taking photos, he has been doing photography since age 11. Looking through a camera is an intuitive process for him.

“I don’t think a lot about it when I’m taking photos. I go from my gut,” said Sternbach. “I lift the camera to my eye and when it looks right I press the button.”


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