Avid mountaineer with a degree in geography and geomorphology, Balog has felt equally comfortable on Himalayan mountain crests, river rapids, the African savannah or the polar ice caps. Photojournalist on mission for Mariah Smithsonian and National Geographic, starting in the 1980s he made the spontaneous move from scientific to nature photojournalism. Driven by the need to investigate the complexity of an evolving world, Balog explores through the camera lens the relationship between man and nature and captures the points where they collide, masterfully documenting the changes in the environment induced by human action. In 2007 he founded the Extreme Ice Survey (2007) a long-term innovative photography project that coupled art and science to give a “visual voice” to the planet’s changing ecosystems. Through the EIS, Balog completed one of the most ambitious studies he ever conducted in the late 1990s: dozens of cameras positioned on glaciers in Greenland and Alaska took pictures for 8 years and demonstrated gradual glacial retreat in timelapse. This dramatic documentation went into the making of Jeff Orlowski’s Chasing Ice (2012), nominated for an Oscar and winner of an Emmy Award (2014) and a special mention award at the 15th CinemAmbiente Festival. The film is an example of the perseverance of human spirit and the courage in facing physical and financial risk, the traits that enabled Balog to make The Human Element under the direction of Matthew Testa. Acclaimed speaker on global climate change, Balog has spoken at the UN conferences in Copenhagen (COP 15) in 2009 and Paris (COP 21) in 2015. He has also appeared in TED Talks and spoken at government and university meetings. Numbering among his numerous awards are the Hood Medal from the Royal Photography Society, the honorary degree in science from the University of Alberta, Canada, and the American Geophysical Union Presidential Citation for Science and Society. He has authored several books: Ice: Portraits of Vanishing Glaciers (2012), Tree: A New Vision of American Forest (2004), and Survivors: A New Vision of Endangered Wildlife (1990). His photographs have been shown at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, the Denver Art Museum, and the Gilman Paper Company collection, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City.
In conjunction with the awarding of the Prize, the Festival paid tribute to James Balog with the screening of the film The Human Element, of which the American photographer is the author and protagonist and with an exhibition of his photographs set up on canceled of the Mole Antonelliana.