Gaggenau: What initially drew you to the subjects of streams and rivers?
Jonathan Smith: I went to Iceland in 2013 for a week and I was blown away by it. It has such a fascinating and unusual landscape. I later found out about an artist’s residency [in Iceland] and spent five weeks in the most northern part of the country. That allowed me to start looking at the streams that pass through the fiords. I was using a lot of long exposures so I would get these contrasts where the streams emerge from landscapes that often don’t have horizons. When I got back and looked at what I had, it was one of those ‘aha!’ moments you get as an artist.
Gaggenau: How did this lead to you going to Patagonia to photograph a glacier?
JS: I had an exhibition of the stream and river photographs and I met a collector who was very interested in my work. He started talking to me about Patagonia and mentioned the Perito Moreno glacier, which my work reminded him of. That was where the idea started and I went to Patagonia, organising a trip to explore the glacier. Perito Moreno is extraordinary, and very hard to get to.
Gaggenau: What was it about this particular glacier that fascinated you?
JS: It’s one of the fastest-moving glaciers on the planet – it moves about two metres a day: constantly cracking, moving and changing. Because of its movement it’s continually breaking off in the front. Every 10 or 15 minutes you’ll see a chunk of ice separate itself, creak, groan, and then splash into the water. You’re about two kilometres away and you’re thinking, ‘that’s a 60-metre high piece of ice that’s falling off!’ That was something I was really struck by – being down there – how insignificant we really are in terms of the grand scheme of the Earth.