Biography

Sebastian Copeland is a polar explorer, climate advocate, photographer and author. In 2017, Sebastian was named one of the world’s 25 Most Adventurous Men of the last 25 years by Men’s Journal. His work has been featured in National Geographic, Vanity Fair, Outside, American Photo, The New York Times, People Magazine, USA Today, Paris Match as well on NBC, CBS, NPR and CNN’s Larry King Live, and hundreds of international media.

Sebastian has been noted as a photographer “who has produced works that are of outstanding artistic merit and communicates messages of urgent global significance.” Sebastian uses photography as a medium for activism. “Helping people fall in love with their world,” he says, ”is a catalyst to wanting to save it”. Sebastian won the prestigious International Photography Awards (IPA) Photographer of the Year twice for his books: first Antarctica: A Global Warning (Palace Press) in 2007; and again in 2020 for Antarctica: The Waking Giant (Rizzoli). He also won the Tokyo International Foto Awards (TIFA) Photographer of the Year twice: in 2015 for Arctica: The Vanishing North (teNeues) which also won the ITB Book Award and the Global Arctic Award; and in 2021 for Antarctica: The Waking Giant (Rizzoli). His fine quality prints have appeared at the United Nations (Solo Show, 2007), the Council on Foreign Relations, Peabody Essex Museum, the Field Museum, and the Bangkok BACC Museum among others. These works can also be found in private collections in both the United States and Europe and galleries around the world and several are now part of the permanent archive of The Natural World Museum in San Francisco. In 2018, the French Sénat awarded Sebastian with a solo exhibit around the gates of the Luxembourg gardens. This prestigious public exhibition of 80 large panels reached 4 million visitors over its four months duration, showcasing Sebastian’s polar photographs with an urgent climate message.

A British/French/US national relocated to NY in 1980, Sebastian was raised to a family of artists (his father is classical conductor Jean-Claude Casadesus). After graduating UCLA (summa cum laude ’87), Sebastian began his career photographing advertising and portraiture.

His personal interest in environmental research and analytics and relentless advocacy for a sustainable future has led Sebastian to focus on visual arts as a tool for social change. Since 1999, he has worked closely with Global Green USA (the US arm of President Gorbachev’s Green Cross International), where he served on the Board of Directors from 2004 to 2019.

A life-long climber and mountaineer, Sebastian re-tooled his adventure skills to polar exploration. He has led various expeditions to the Polar regions. By 2005, Sebastian spearheaded a media efforts, notably in the Arctic in defense of the Inuit. He spent two seasons (2006 and 2007) aboard a scientific research icebreaker in the Antarctic Peninsula. In 2008 with partner Luc Hardy, Sebastian led a team of nine children from international nationalities to the northernmost Canadian Arctic as the Young Ambassadors of the Arctic. In March 2009, Sebastian led a mission to what is widely considered the most difficult expedition in the world: the geographical North Pole. He and partner Keith Heger walked seven hundred kilometers to commemorate the centennial of Admiral Peary’s reach in 1909. Sebastian chronicled the mission in his first documentary Into The Cold: A Journey Of The Soul. The film premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and has won multiple international awards.

In 2010, Sebastian and partner Eric McNair-Landry spent 43 days crossing the Greenland ice sheet using skis and kites and without outside support. During the 2300 kilometers crossing, they set a new world record for longest distance traveled on kites and skis over one twenty hour period by covering 595 kilometers. The trip was chronicled in Sebastian’s second documentary film, Across The Ice (2015) produced for Red Bull Media.

On the centennial 2011-2012 season of the South Pole, again with partner Eric McNair-Landry, Sebastian led the first East/West transcontinental crossing of Antarctica by skis and kites via two of its poles, setting three world records over the 4100 kilometers/84 days expedition.

In 2016, Sebastian completed an unsupported crossing of the Simpson Desert, Australia’s driest area with partner Mark George. The mission was a training exercise for his second mission to the North Pole from Canada, in winter 2017, one of the last of its kind due to the rapidly melting ice. That expedition was dramatically aborted due to severe frostbites. Sebastian aims to repeat his effort in 2023, which could be the last of its kind due to the rapidly deteriorating ice.

As an international speaker on climate crisis, Sebastian has been featured on television and radio (Larry King Live, CBS, NPR,Air America) and has addressed audiences at the United Nations, at the COP21 in Paris, the World Affairs Council, the General Assembly on Climate in New Orleans and the George Eastman House. He has spoken for Hewlett Packard, VF Corp, Canon, BMW, BNP Paribas, Google’s headquarters and to Apple’s Senior Design Team amongst many others. He has addressed universities and museums across the US, and international climate summits including the COP21 warning of the systemic geopolitical consequences of climate change. His 2021 TEDx talk offers a new provocative approach to bridge the gap between humans and Nature.

In 2011, Sebastian founded the SEDNA foundation whose mission is to report from the front lines of climate change, and explore the implications of climate on other systems: socioeconomics, sociopolitical and geopolitics. Sebastian is a regular contributor to Men’s Journal and The Huffington Post, and hosted Al Gore’s 24 hours of Climate Reality. He regularly writes for various international media.

In 2008, Sebastian was named German GQ’s Man of the Year for environmental leadership. In 2009, he received the Founder’s Award from Global Green USA, and in 2010 the Gala Award for his environmental stewardship. He was commended twice by the City of Los Angeles, in 2005 and 2009; and received the Green Good Design Award from the Chicago Athenaeum Museum of Architecture and Design in 2014. In 2015, he received the Eckart Witzigmann award from BMW; and the Medal of Light from Thailand’s cultural minister in 2018. Sebastian received the German 2018 Bambi Award from Burda Publishing in the category “Our Earth”. In 2019, France’s President Emmanuel Macron named Sebastian a knight in the french National Order of Merit.

Sebastian is brand ambassador for Audi and Ulysse Nardin. Current  and past sponsors include Napapijri, Herbalife, Timberland, Oakley, Hewlett Packard, IWC, Canon, Lexar, MSR, Rossignol, REVO eyewear, Nemo, Ozone Kites, Organic Foodbar and Hilleberg tents among others.

Sebastian is a Fellow of the Explorer’s Club, a member of the International Glaciology Society and the American Polar Society, as well as a founding member of Artists for Amazonia, an offshoot of the NGO Amazon Watch. He has two daughters with his wife, Carolin.

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