A series of guest blogs by Alex Ingle, resident filmmaker and photographer.
To begin with, I guess an introduction is in order. My name’s Alex Ingle, a filmmaker/photographer from Stirling, Scotland, specialising in multimedia outreach for scientific research and field expeditions. I joined the Britice-Chrono team in 2014 to document their first research cruise, and, after a very successful trip all round, I am delighted to be back on board. On that note, a sincere ‘thank you’ is in order to everyone for inviting me back!
On the James Cook I’m in a pretty unique position to be able to experience and document all aspects of ship life, floating between day shifts and night shifts on all parts of the vessel as the crew and science teams work around the clock. From the chefs in the galley to the engineers beneath deck, people from all walks of life work together to make research projects like this happen, and I’d be delighted to offer some insight into this intriguing world through this series of blogs. Working in this environment presents some pretty unique challenges for me as well, which I’d also like to share with you over the coming weeks.
Now that I’m settled in – my camera gear is unpacked, the BGS equipment is nearly mobilized and ready to go, and we’re waiting for the science team to arrive – I think I’ll take this opportunity to paint a brief picture of my work, and explain how on earth I ended up working on research ships…!
Let’s start way back. I grew up in rural Scotland, and have lived there for much of my life since. I’ve never had any formal photography training, but when I think back, my love of photography (which later transitioned into filmmaking) began when I was five. I was given my first disposable film camera on holiday in France, and, after finding some catfish in a pond, used an entire roll of film within a few short minutes. That’s where it all started, when a love of wildlife overlapped with a newfound hobby. As a kid, I dreamt of becoming a nature photographer. I always had my head buried in my collection of National Geographics and ‘Wildlife Fact Files’ and watched all of the old BBC natural history documentaries religiously. I spent my spare time outdoors with my Dad’s Olympus OM1 as well as countless Polaroids and disposable cameras, stalking family pets and wild birds as I learned the art of photography through trial and error.
Despite those early aspirations, it’s only in the last few years that photography/filmmaking has become more than just a hobby. In brief, over the course of several years, I travelled to Iceland and Greenland to research glaciers, ice caps and the impact of climate change. This was to be a turning point in both my personal life and career, but not as I could ever have expected. In Iceland I met a girl who later became my wife (it’s a long story involving glaciers, kæstur hákarl [rotten shark] and a chance encounter on the country’s southern coast) and in Greenland I met a photographer and filmmaker called Chris Linder. At that point, whilst camped in a remote corner of Greenland, I finally decided to take the plunge and turn filmmaking and photography into a career…. and I haven’t looked back since.
Combining my passion for science with a love of filmmaking and photography, I began working with researchers across the UK to produce multimedia and to run outreach campaigns that would engage with the public by showing the ‘human face’ of science. This unusual career path has taken me to some remarkable places, but, until 2014, these were exclusively on dry land. Early last year, after a discussion with Chris Clark, Britice-Chrono’s Principal Investigator, I received my first offshore assignment – to document the life and work of those onboard the James Cook (JC106).
I’ve got to admit, it was a daunting task having only ever been on rather tame ferry crossings before but it turned out to be an awesome experience which has led my work down a really exciting path. Over the coming month, as well as shooting some documentary footage for Britice-Chrono, I’ll be spending time on board developing some of my own work during the first of three offshore artist’s residencies. Last time, I found my sea legs pretty quickly and avoided any sea sickness… here’s hoping for the same this time around!
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