In 2013, I landed by ship at the Polish Polar Station, an outpost maintained by Polish scientists located on the remote Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard in a fjord named Hornsund. At 77˚N latitude, the station is a rare human outpost in the far North, on an island with few year-round inhabitants aside from native polar bears, arctic foxes, and an abundance of tiny reindeer. In early September the sky never grows dark, and I spent long days trekking across chossy valleys and crumbling mountains, exploring the many glaciers that rest and rumble within a 24-hour walk. Some days I'd join a glaciologist on their mission across vast glacial landscapes to check their field instruments and on other days, I would walk alone hauling a heavy backpack of camera equipment with an old WWII rifle strapped to my back for protection from white bears.
I’ve never felt more vulnerable to chance than in that place—wandering solo across yet another nameless ice field in the Arctic. Here, my insignificance to the universe became fully realized. Walls of ice towered over me and then continued infinitely into the horizon. As an outsider to this landscape, I relied heavily on modern technology to survive—without it I wouldn’t have had the chance to set foot on the island. My gun protected me from animals that could out-wrestle me, Gore-Tex protected my body temperature from the wind, and crampons kept me surefooted, preventing a slip into a bottomless crevasse. A ship powered by diesel brought me here and a sailboat promised to pick me up later, before the sea turned to ice and the darkness swallowed the land. Everywhere I walked, the animals gave me WTF stares.
I was invited to create this expedition into the Arctic by Project Pressure, a non-profit who’s mission is to visualize climate change through art and photography. My primary focus was to photograph glaciers and to make a record of how the region looks today, with a plan to someday return and document change to the land over time. Hornsund is a collection of images made during this journey by an unlikely human outsider into an unfamiliar and overwhelming land.
Special thanks to Project Pressure www.project-pressure.org and a grant from the Lighthouse foundation. www.lighthouse-foundation.org