Arctic Heroes

The book is not new, but it is new to us. Ben Taub has brought to our attention this stunning portraiture that, like most great photography, makes you wonder how the artist got the composition just so:

Ragnar Axelsson

The Fading Ways of Indigenous Arctic Hunters

Ragnar Axelsson

Ragnar Axelsson’s portraits from Greenland reveal the effects of climate change on ice floes, sled dogs, and a traditional culture.

During springtime in the far, far north—when the sun breaches the horizon, after months of total darkness—indigenous Greenlandic hunters head out to frozen inlets and get lost in ice and time. By day, the hunters might move miles in one direction, while the ice under their feet floats gently in another. By night, detached floes drift about, shifting the landmarks as the hunters sleep. For many of the past thirty-five years, Ragnar Axelsson, an Icelandic photographer, has joined these expeditions, clutching his Leica against the Arctic winds. “In the vastness of Greenland there are places to be found where one gets the distinct impression of being alone in the world, places few people have ever reached,” Axelsson says. “The stillness is overwhelming. The emptiness seems boundless.”

Dawn after frigid dawn, Axelsson has awoken to a chorus of howling sled dogs. In many Arctic towns, locals have swapped animal-skin outfits for layered Gore-Tex, harpoons for rifles, and sleds for snowmobiles. But, in the least accessible areas, sled dogs are irreplaceable. “Unlike a snowmobile, a good trained dog can lead you home in a storm,” Axelsson told me. “Engines fail. But the dogs never fail.” Loyal, strong, selfless, uncomplaining—step after frozen step, sled dogs have hauled people to the limits of the earth, at both poles. They are, in Axelsson’s estimation, “the greatest heroes the North has ever known.”…

Read the whole review here.

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