Why do humans want to be in nature, and why are we trying to conquer it constantly? Photographer Kevin Cooley’s new exhibition, “Take Refuge,” is an exploration of those questions, which he has been contemplating for more than three years. “The whole history of humanity could be framed within our relationship with nature,” says Cooley on the subject of his show. Now on display at the Kopeikin Gallery in Los Angeles, “Take Refuge,” features 10 large-scale photographs, as well as video work, taken by Cooley in New York, California and Spitsbergen island in the Arctic. His gorgeous landscape images show everything from snow-covered mountain tops to burning bushes, each picture a representation of the forces of nature.
Cooley made some of the show’s most captivating images while participating in the Arctic Circle Expeditionary Residency last September and October. There, he was joined by fellow artists, directors and even a scientist as a sail boat took them around Spitsbergen island and into its natural harbors. “Part of the reason I was drawn to the Arctic is because it’s sort of the end of the earth—an uninhabited place. It’s places like that where you’re directly confronted with this epic idea of nature.” And as for where he’s headed next, Cooley says, “Maybe somewhere warm.”
Feifei Sun is an associate editor at TIME. Follow her on Twitter at @feifei_sun.