Environmental awareness or bust

As the icebergs shrink, so does the apparel of Up Here's models. The award-winning northern magazine is using swimsuit models to shed some clothes to reveal more about the climate change issue.

As the icebergs shrink, so does the apparel of Up Here’s models.

The award-winning northern magazine is using swimsuit models to shed some clothes to reveal more about the climate change issue.

It’s a topic that’s been covered extensively. So editor Aaron Spitzer wanted to put a fresh spin on it, he said.

“We were sort of presented with a challenge. There’s no topic more than climate change that is associated with the North and the North is obviously what our magazine’s about. It’s our region. It’s our stomping grounds,” he said. “It’s super hard to do anything about climate change that hasn’t been done a million times before.”

So they found volunteer models, who all live in the North and have witnessed the effects of climate change, to pose in front of northern landscapes threatened by melting, said Spitzer.

“We cooked up the idea of taking a legendary magazine convention, which is the swimsuit issue, made famous by Sports Illustrated … and totally tweak it and turn it on its head and place models … in Arctic locations. Totally the opposite of what people would expect for a swimsuit shoot.”

The July/August swimsuit edition includes three Yukon locations, shot by Whitehorse-based photographer Daren Gallo. The Skagway summit, Dawson City and a Whitehorse mountain provided some backdrops for the models.

Shauna Jones wore a retro-style halter bathing suit and posed in front of collapsing buildings in Dawson.

“They’re an example of how climate change is affecting architecture,” she said.

But creating awareness about the environment wasn’t her motivation for the shoot.

It sounded like a fun idea; she wanted a free trip to Dawson, and “A lot of the things that I tend to do outside of my everyday life play with different personas,” she said.

She’s involved in the roller derby and is in a burlesque troop.

That’s how she scored the modeling gig – Up Here’s associate editor Tristan Hopper sent her an invitation because he heard she did burlesque dancing and thought the magazine’s concept may interest her, she said.

It did. Now she and the other swimsuit-clad models are stirring up a lot of attention.

“A lot of the comments are that this is a brilliant take on the subject and are crediting us for coming up with a clever way of addressing the issue,” said Spitzer.

Others are saying the magazine stooped to exploiting women’s bodies and not taking the topic seriously.

“We realize we were walking a fine line between potentially making light of climate change by looking at it this way. But we think when people actually open the article and look at it, they’ll realize we’re not making light of climate change,” said Spitzer.

The shots were tastefully done and did not sexualize the issue, he added. In most cases, models got to choose their own wardrobe and poses.

“We strived not to make these cheesecakey shots. These women are not vamping for the camera. They’re posing in an esthetically pleasing but respectful way.”

If global warming continues at the pace it’s at, the North could turn into a climate for swimsuits, he said.

Although that may be pleasing to the eye for many, Spitzer hopes this will open people’s eyes to the issue, even if it doesn’t solve the problem.

“I don’t expect the G20 to call a special meeting and undo their carbon emissions policies,” he joked. But he does believe it has more value than other attempts to raise awareness.

“We still think it’s better than one more boring rant about the subject.”

Contact Larissa Robyn Johnston at larissaj@yukon-news.com