Michael Kienitz’s Vanishing Beauty Presentation
A Musical Revue - the “Best of West”
By Alex Vakar
If you read my last article published in the newspaper, I reflected on a concert—a seemingly normal experience—that really left a mark on me. I think that was the most accurate representation of what I want to write in the Regent Review, and I’ve decided to change the direction of my column. Although it’s nearing the end of the year and you won’t see a lot more of me this time around, I’ll return next school year with a more organized idea of what I’ll be writing.
On a windy day in early March, I went to a presentation regarding the effects of climate change, with a beautiful yet saddening visual representation of the melting of icebergs in Iceland. Michael Kienitz, an insightful photo-journalist, had fallen in love with the landscapes of Iceland and taken many trips in honor of capturing what he named Vanishing Beauty, becoming the name of the presentation he later performed for people around the United States. The presentation was held in a nursing home in downtown Madison, an ironic setting where I found myself sitting in a room filled with older individuals, listening to information about the melting icebergs which most of the audience wouldn’t live to see melt.
Vanishing Beauty consisted of photographs from Kienitz’s first few trips to Iceland placed alongside photographs from his most recent visit, where previously photographed glaciers and natural wonders had simply disappeared. Our world suffers a grave loss, evident in the slow melt of Vatnajökull, Europe’s biggest glacier, and many others, caused by us.
Svínafellsjökull Glacial Snout, Michael Kienitz, Vanishing Beauty
I was astonished by the beauty of these glaciers, and I am only left to imagine the true wonder that comes with their massive size. I was also left amazed by the sight of crystal caves seen by Kienitz in southeast Iceland, reflecting sunlight through thick ice, icicles dripping from the ceiling, surrounded by a physically illuminated glow. I longed to stand in that cave. With the click of a keyboard arrow button, I realized that the cave he had shown no longer existed, that no longer would anyone walk through that light-filled corridor and admire its beauty.
Kienitz initially took inspiration from his first visit to Iceland. On a tour of ice caves, the very experienced guide had shown Michael a photograph of an astonishing iceberg. When Kienitz asked where he could see it for himself, wishing to see its beautiful essence with his own eyes, the guide had told him that it was present two years ago, right below their feet where they stood. After hearing of the vanishing of a thing so naturally powerful, Kineitz dedicated five years to recording the beauty of the vanishing, before it bid its final farewell.
Through visual examples, Kienitz documented the effects of a heartbreaking phenomenon in Iceland, caused by something touching the whole world. But this is not the only vanishing beauty. “Every single photograph I’ve taken has dramatically changed since, and sometimes, the scene has completely vanished.” The photographs he showed side-by-side varied dramatically, glaciers in their full form melting to a minuscule arc of ice and gray rock, through which the newfound sadness of Iceland and those visiting is seen. By avoiding the use of heavy editing, Kienitz faithfully shows the naturale of these phenomena.
My heart aches for these glaciers that melt before our eyes. I sat in that conference room with those of ages 60+ and felt almost a responsibility to do something. I worry I will be the one to tell my grandchildren of the vanished beauty of the world, the icebergs that used to be.
You can visit Kienitz’s website at michaelkienitz.com for more information on his international projects, sample photographs, and his drone videos. Additionally, as individuals, it is our responsibility to leave this world as we found it, and maybe even clean it along the way. West offers a student-led environmental club that organizes weekly park clean-ups around Madison. You can follow them on Instagram with the handle @whs.environmental_club and come to room 2077 on Tuesdays at lunch to join the club.
'Iceland's Vanishing Beauty' Photo Exhibition Shows the Effect of Climate Change - Shepherd Express
By Charlotte Olson
The spring musical was a triumphant showcase of the talent that flourishes at West High School. From costumes to choreography and more, the “Best of West” was on display for one weekend.
There was a piece for everyone, as West junior Sofia Guha explained: “The musical consisted of a bunch of musical theater songs from different musicals thrown together with no particular order.” Guha went on to say that each piece “had its own theme and costumes, every single scene was unique in its own way and that's what made it fun, especially in the group ensembles. We made it very much our own.”
The show offered a dazzling array of sparkling costumes. Sophomore Morgan Crawford was excited to share her praises. “I had a great time. The costumes were amazing. I love the costume crew,” she gushed. Sophomore Eleanor Byrnes, a member of the costume crew, said that one of their favorite parts was “going into the giant costume closet and pulling out pieces for people.”
“I really loved doing quick changes, [they were] very stressful but still fun!” said sophomore Jackie Rich, another member of the costume crew.
Another highlight of the musical for many people was the friendships made. Eleanor laughed a bit talking about “how close everyone gets from staying at school really late at night.” Being a part of the musical was a serious time commitment for everyone involved, especially for the teachers and other volunteers. Annabelle Bradbury, another sophomore, was quick to recognize this, saying, “Mr. Cao worked really hard on the musical. I really appreciate his work”. Sophomore Gracie Halvey agreed: “Something that I really loved about the musical was that everyone was willing to be vulnerable and put their everything in it. Mr. Cao made it a safe space for everyone to make mistakes.”
Everyone seemed a little relieved that the musical was over, but it was very bittersweet. Gracie smiled talking about how “the seniors passed on the torch to the juniors. There was a moment during warmups where they literally passed on a gauntlet to the juniors. It was very sweet to watch the seniors do their last show and then pass it on to us.”
The pit band provided a soundtrack to every moment in the musical. The tech crew shone a light on the faces and magnified the voices of West’s wonderful students. A huge congratulations to everyone who was in the musical this year; next year’s show simply can’t come fast enough!