Wheeler took this photo of fire works using a lens he carved of ice July 1st in McBride BC

McBride photographer Matthew Wheeler is touring a series of prints he made using a lens made of ice.

The show starts at the Two Rivers Gallery in Prince George this week as part of a three-person exhibition called “Frozen.” A different series of prints will go on tour in August, and be showcased at the Valemount Museum and the Valley Museum and Archives in McBride.

Wheeler first got the idea to use ice as a lens 20 years ago when he tried to use ice to make a fire, a challenge given by a columnist in Scientific American Magazine and the CBC. He eventually succeeded in creating fire – but also noticed that the convex of ice focused images onto the snow.

“I thought it was really fascinating the way it projected images compared with glass, which is precise.”

Since that first experiment, Wheeler has experimented with the abstract, colour-saturated images he is able to obtain using a disc of ice he carves with a serrated knife from ponds and rivers. The dream-like result offers viewers a chance to see nature – and human-made phenomena such as fireworks (shown above) in an entirely different perspective.

“It’s quite a difficult challenge to use them,” Wheeler says. “But almost immediately when you look through them, they project such an extraordinary world compared to what you’d see with your normal vision or with a glass lens.”

He says you can adjust how the images shift this way or that, and vary the distortions.

George Harris the curator of Two Rivers Gallery writes this of Wheeler’s work: “As we look at his images, we can imagine the artist wrestling with fleeting and moving targets, always mindful of the risk that his lens might altogether melt and disappear.”

Wheeler says it’s an incredible honour to be chosen for the exhibitions this year. The tour through the Robson Valley is focused on the Robson Valley and its flora. The one in Prince George focuses more on his nighttime prints.

A nighttime shot of New York City through one of Wheeler's ice lenses