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At the Jokulsarlon Lagoon in Iceland, California photographer Aaron Fallon says the hours overlap and blur. He and his wife traversed the icy terrain in July, when the sun never sets. “It’s a bit harder to keep track of time when it doesn’t get dark,” he admits.

He still can’t remember exactly how long they spent at the lagoon— maybe a few hours— but he recalls vividly the place itself, its bitter cold and uncanny atmosphere: “You can touch the water and eat the ice.”

Jokulsarlon, and Iceland in general, has in recent years been dubbed the trendy, up-and-coming destination of the world. People bring their phones; they take canned shots of the scenery; they post them on Instagram and get a ton of “likes.” One disgruntled tourist recently slammed a hostel on TripAdvisor for having “too many hipsters.”

Still, Fallon’s photographs cut beneath the glittering veneer of Jokulsarlon to reveal the tragedy that lies at its heart. The lagoon didn’t appear until the 1930s, when climate change melted away an ancient glacier. Day by day, the glacier is receding.

At the time of the photographer’s visit, it had ebbed one and a half kilometers from the Atlantic. In the past thirty years, Fallon explains, the lagoon has expanded to more than double its previous size.

Jokulsarlon is a romantic place— it’s where Fallon and his wife chose to spend their honeymoon— but with that sublime reunion with nature comes the inexorable knowledge of what we as a species have done. This strange place exists for now in the borderland between the wild and the manmade. We have literally broken the landscape to pieces.

What has stuck with Fallon over the last year hasn’t been the monolithic icebergs or divine atmosphere of Jokulsarlon but it’s almost mortal fragility. In a place where the sun never sets, the photographer finds real melancholy.

“If someone isn’t convinced that these changes are occurring, all they need to do is show up to an area where a glacier is melting,” Fallon says of global warming, “I am quite sure, if and when I return in the future, Jokulsarlon will have changed fairly significantly.”

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All images © Aaron Fallon

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