Heroes and Henson

by Hallgerdur

I grew up seeing (receiving?) a very specific photographic representation of Greenland, which was in many ways quite similar to the way Iceland has been represented through photography for the last decades. It has, I think, a lot to do with one man; Ragnar Axelsson or RAX. And of course a few more. These men downed polar bear pants and reindeer jackets and sat on dogsleds for days looking for a live version of what they were wearing. Or more specifically looking to capture an image of the natives hunting these animals, living off the land. These men braved the stinging cold and the brutal storms, spending time on the ice alongside the people of the arctic. They then presented us with a crazy, nostalgic and dramatic visual alphabet of contrasts. The letters of this alphabet were in caps lock and spelled the loudest and most important of words but its letters were few and the vocabulary limited. As with any type of photography or other means of representation. These men were HEROES. Heroes with cameras. I am not.

Today I head to Greenland in a kind of reaction to these dazzling versions of the North. I set out to gather moments to make up my version. It will not be the truth, or accurate in any way, but it will be a truth and my version.

A few weeks ago I attended a lecture of RAX about his work and he shared a little anecdote: “When the Greenlanders wanted to dress up for the camera they would take off the hunting gear made from skins and put on brightly colored Henson-outfits. In their eyes that was the stuff. Then of course I had no longer any interest in photographing them.”

I now dream of making that photograph.

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These photographs are taken from RAX’s series The Hunters of Greenland, more here: www.nytimes.com

The trip to Greenland and Moderlandet-project is made with the help of the Vestnorræni höfuðborgasjóðurinn and Air Iceland / Flugfélag Íslands.

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