Artist Statement : The Far North, Portrait of the Arctic
The two images here are from The Far North, Portrait of the Arctic. I started this project in 2006. More images from the project are in the The Far North, Portrait of the Arctic: Gallery 1, for 2014 images, and The Far North, Portrait of the Arctic: Gallery 2, for images from 2013 and earlier.
The Arctic is a beautiful but harsh environment. Many Arctic peoples have lived there for millennia. They endure what outsiders would view as hardship with ingenuity. They maximize the uses of all available resources, with little left to waste. They use innovative housing, energy supplies, food sources, and transportation. They survive well. Yet the indigenous peoples of the Arctic are already dealing with changes in lifestyles due to changing weather patterns. Subsistence hunting and fishing have already been impacted. These will increasingly be impacted.
Though the Arctic has relatively few permanent human residents it plays an out-sized role in life on earth. It is one of earth’s two main repositories for snow, ice, and freshwater. It is little understood and little visited. But it is critical to this planet. Global climate change impacts the Arctic more than most other areas on earth. Changes in Arctic weather patterns are already believed to be causing ripple effects in other areas of the Northern Hemisphere. New opportunities will arise in the Arctic due to global climate change, such as increased shipping through the Northwest Passage and increased agriculture in Greenland (Kalaallit Nunaat). Other proposed and planned changes in the Arctic are controversial and could threaten ecology, such as planned oil drilling off of the Northern coast of Alaska and the northern coast of Russia. All of these changes will impact Arctic communities.
Change in the Arctic also has a larger global context. Global climate change has caused world powers to increasingly look at the Arctic from a geopolitical standpoint. In the last months of 2013 and first months of 2014 front page stories have focused on Arctic issues in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Christian Science Monitor, and many major Canadian newspapers. Russian President Vladimir Putin, Canadian Premier Stephen Harper, and U.S. President Barack Obama have all commented on the Arctic’s increasing importance. Russia planted its flag at the North Pole in 2007. Russia and Canada have sparred over rights to the Arctic. Both have undertaken or discussed military maneuvers in the Arctic. Norway and Denmark also have Arctic coasts and policies, Denmark through its linkage with the newly (2008) autonomous country of Greenland (Kalaallit Nunaat), a part of the Kingdom of Denmark. Greenland – the world’s largest island but least densely populated country – is 81% covered with ice.
Arctic communities and peoples and ecologies share more similarities across national boundaries than differences. The will to survive, endure, and sustain a living is strong everywhere in the Arctic. The images in this project reflect a changing world. They record change in a part of the world that few know but that has real influence on much of the world through weather patterns and geopolitics. It is an exceptionally difficult and costly region to reach and visit. It is also a difficult region in which to photograph. But its importance is undeniable. These images are important for an understanding of the importance of the Arctic in our collective future. They reflect the realities now underway in the Arctic. The Arctic is changing and will continue to change.