Jaschinski | Polar Bear; Ursus Maritimus Bremerhaven

Britta Jaschinski (German, b. 1965)
Polar Bear; Ursus Maritimus Bremerhaven (1993)
Iris print, 29 x 41 ¼”
Gift of Robinson A. and Nancy D. Grover, 2011.20
The polar bears in this large-scale photograph were not captured roaming the Arctic but instead pace inside an artificial habitat at the Bremerhaven Zoo. Jaschinski, a photojournalist and wildlife activist, is “devoted to documenting the fractured existence of wildlife, which suffers in the name of entertainment, status, greed and superstition.” Her stark, black-and-white images expose the grim reality of life in captivity and serve as a silent call to action.

Charisma Lost

Charismatic mammals are the large, visible, iconic animals that are favorites among photographers and children. Of these, the polar bear is arguably the most iconic one for the Anthropocene Epoch because their fate is directly linked to the global warming being caused by carbon exhaust from fossil fuels. Their habitat is the Arctic pack ice, from which they hunt the seals that eat the fish that eat the smaller fish that eat the zooplankton, that eat the phytoplankton. As the ice disappears, so, too, does the wild polar bear. Here, the gray slabs of fake ice are thrust and stacked like tectonic plates of concrete.