Daniel Ranalli’s Latest Photo Series Provides Commentary on Climate Change

Fire & Ice combines photographs of animals with NASA satellite images of natural disasters.

Canada Fire/Antarctic Ice with Birds, archival pigment print, $2,000, danielranalli.com. / Courtesy photo

Daniel Ranalli was well on his way to a Ph.D. in economics when he dropped out to pursue a newfound passion: photography. Now, nearly 50 years later, the self-taught artist’s work graces permanent collections at the Museum of Fine Arts and beyond. Ranalli says he draws much of his inspiration from celebrated abstractionists, including photographer Man Ray. “My work has always had a degree of what people refer to as conceptual art,” he says. “There’s a very important idea behind the visual stuff.”

In his ongoing series Fire & Ice, the Cambridge- and Wellfleet-based artist uses his unique style to explore the ever-pressing topic of climate change, combining photographs of birds, nests, horseshoe crabs, and whale bones with NASA satellite images of natural disasters. His collage Canada Fire/Antarctic Ice with Birds melds a mirrored negative of a bird with shots of a wildfire and glacial calving—the process in which chunks of ice break off from glaciers. Ranalli hopes the collage will serve as both a call to action and a reminder of the catastrophic effects of global warming. “There’s something beautiful about a photograph of a hurricane in a spiral form or the smoke from a fire. But there’s an irony because this is a great tragedy,” he says. “There’s an attempt to get people to pay attention. If you have that image in front of you, even though it’s beautiful, it’s going to remind you that you have a responsibility to do something.”