“I see new landscapes being created on every trip. The glaciers are receding and thinning and new land is exposed beneath them." Photographer RAX, Ragnar Axelsson, has been documenting the Arctic for four decades. He has seen first-hand the immense natural changes happening during this time and how global warming is affecting people’s lives in the Arctic.
We must give Arctic people a voice
Photographer RAX, Ragnar Axelsson, has been documenting the Arctic for four decades. He has seen first-hand the immense natural changes happening during this time and how global warming is affecting people’s lives in the Arctic.
“I see new landscapes being created in every trip. The glaciers are receding and thinning and new land is exposed beneath them. It’s most apparent on Sólheimajökull and Kötlujökull. I fly over those often; I usually take a similar route. And I’m going to keep doing so regularly because it’s important to document these changes. Not only in the Arctic landscape but in people’s way of life. Their lives are changing fast.”
“I’m going through photos I took 20 or 30 years ago; scanning them and working with them. And then you can really see how dramatic the change has been. History is unfolding before our eyes. But there is no policy in Iceland when it comes to documenting history. The other Nordic countries employ 50-80 photographers just to record the present. Iceland has zero. So I’m just doing this on my own.”
The glaciers are going to disappear, that’s clear now!
The glaciers are going to disappear
“Of course, there are others working among similar lines. Oddur Sigurðsson geologist records the changes thoroughly. Ólafur Elíasson has broached the topic in his works. He’s doing a lot of different things but I don’t think his glacier project–which is very important–is finished. We approach the subject very differently. I approach it almost like a book of poetry. The glaciers are going to disappear, that’s clear now, but there is all this history there that we have to record. If you drill into the glacier you’ll find information stretching far back into the past.”
“The main thing is going to meet the people and let them talk and give them the voice that they don’t have. Nobody talks to them. They’re maybe put on stage in a traditional costume and made to dance. But their voice will live longer than any speech at a conference. To my mind, those are just gatherings for crackpots. People don’t understand the importance of recording Arctic life in images and text. It helps to open people’s eyes across the globe to the reality of what’s going on. So I just try to accept the change and hope for the best.”
Rax has seen big changes in the environment and how global warming is affecting the Arctic countries. We also met up with RAX in 2019 to discuss these changes and the importance of documenting them.