My first experience of the Arctic and the first chapter of a long-term project concerned with the human face of climate change. In the tiny island town of Uummannaq on Greenland’s west coast, vanishing sea ice is rapidly altering traditional hunting and community life.
On thin ice shows the life of hunters and fishermen in the remote villages of Northern Greenland. In this exploration, I spent most of my time in a village with only 250 inhabitants but over 500 dogs.
One of the main characters of the story is Unnartoq, one of the last remaining people sticking to tradition and living as subsistence hunters. I don’t speak Unnartoq’s language, so hand gestures and honesty become an even more important factor of communication than usual. For a European, the conditions in Greenland are extreme; low temperatures require one to be exceptionally strong-willed, and the will to live is what has always driven the traditional hunters to survive. However, the daily life of these hunters is changing due to climate change, unpredictable weather, higher temperatures, and the resulting thin ice.
The sea used to be frozen for eight months a year, but nowadays it only freezes for a few months, threatening the traditional methods of seal hunting. The story also touches upon globalization worming its way into every nook and cranny of the world, as well as upon global interconnectedness driving youth away from tradition and self-sufficiency. In Greenland as well, young people are moving to the cities, self-sufficient hunters are disappearing and a 1000-year tradition of hunting and survival in the most extreme of conditions is being forgotten.
Different eyes perceive different sensations and actions, and how one interprets a visual story is mostly the result of one’s emotions. I strive to use photography to tell a story that is reflected through a single person, through his own eyes.