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We, the North: Life on the Arctic Circle

Photo essay: Christian Barnett documented all the marvellous people he met as he travelled along the Arctic Circle eight years ago


 
Ivar Johansen. Birdwatcher. Træna. 2007. Credit: Christian Barnett

Ivar Johansen, birdwatcher. Træna, 2007. (Credit: Christian Barnett)

With a desire to convey the complexity of life in the North, British photographer Cristian Barnett spent eight years taking portraits in remote communities along the Arctic Circle—from Repulse Bay in Nunavut to Sisimiut in Greenland—for his project Life on the Line.

Although he chose to focus on a limited area—56 km on either side of the invisible latitude—he was initially struck by the cultural diversity: the love of boxing in Alaska, ice churches in Finland. “But the more I travelled, the more I began to see the connections. Self-reliance and pride are characteristics shared by all these people,” Barnett says. “Sometimes they wait months for shipments of basic goods, so they have to get creative. It’s very common for people to have multiple professions to keep up, from air-traffic controller to plumber. That amazes me.”

While northern life is far from a utopia, with high levels of poverty and substance abuse, Barnett says that’s far from the whole picture. “Many photographers go to show the negative sides of this life. I didn’t ignore that, but wanted to do something unique.” One of his favourite moments was spending the day picnicking with a family in Zhigansk, Russia. “We packed a truck full of food and trundled off into the forest for hours,” he says. “It’s seldom I do anything like that with my own family. The sense of community there becomes especially strong in winter.”

Barnett hopes his work will serve as a record for future generations, especially of climate change. “Who knows what those communities will look like in 10 years?” he says. “It could be this Arctic, or it could be a very different place—but I hope not.”

SWEDEN

Hans Bengtson. Known to everyone as ‘Vild-Hasse’ ( Wild-Hasse ) he is a self-proclaimed ‘master of glibness and sausage poet’. Jokkmokk, Sweden. 2010. (Credit: Christian Barnett)

Hans Bengtson. Known to everyone as ‘Vild-Hasse’ ( Wild-Hasse ) he is a self-proclaimed ‘master of glibness and sausage poet’. Jokkmokk, Sweden. 2010. (Credit: Christian Barnett)

RUSSIA

Anatoly Galushkin Anatoly demonstrates ‘tricking’, a form of acrobatic martial arts. Zhigansk. 2013. (Credit: Christian Barnett)

Anatoly Galushkin Anatoly demonstrates ‘tricking’, a form of acrobatic martial arts. Zhigansk. 2013. (Credit: Christian Barnett)

NORWAY

Rofer Moen, farmer and owner of what might be the most northerly herd of Hereford cattle in the world. Træna, Norway. 2007. (Credit: Christian Barnett)

Rofer Moen, farmer and owner of what might be the most northerly herd of Hereford cattle in the world. Træna, Norway. 2007. (Credit: Christian Barnett)

ICELAND

Ivar Sigthorsson. Putting up Christmas lights is a cold job, so handyman Ivar is trying out a new face protector. Raufarhöfn, Iceland. 2013. (Credit: Christian Barnett)

Ivar Sigthorsson. Putting up Christmas lights is a cold job, so handyman Ivar is trying out a new face protector. Raufarhöfn, Iceland. 2013. (Credit: Christian Barnett)

GREENLAND

Pavia Ludvigsen, who has apparently modelled himself on a bat since he was a young child. Sisimiut, Greenland. 2013. (Credit: Christian Barnett)

Pavia Ludvigsen, who has apparently modelled himself on a bat since he was a young child. Sisimiut, Greenland. 2013. (Credit: Christian Barnett)

FINLAND

Matti Härkönen who, each winter, builds an ice church. Sonka. 2006. (Credit: Christian Barnett)

Matti Härkönen who, each winter, builds an ice church. Sonka. 2006. (Credit: Christian Barnett)

CANADA

Mark Robinson and George Kourounis. Storm-chasers by trade, Mark films George wearing a horse’s head. Sunshine Fjord, Baffin island. 2013. (Credit: Christian Barnett)

Mark Robinson and George Kourounis. Storm-chasers by trade, Mark films George wearing a horse’s head. Sunshine Fjord, Baffin island. 2013. (Credit: Christian Barnett)

Father Daniel Szwarc. The Roman Catholic mission has an interesting interior, including this Inuit sledge alter. Repulse Bay, Canada. 2010. (Credit: Christian Barnett)

Father Daniel Szwarc. The Roman Catholic mission has an interesting interior, including this Inuit sledge alter. Repulse Bay, Canada. 2010. (Credit: Christian Barnett)

Annie Angotialuk. Carrying her daughter in a traditional Amauti keeps both Annie and child nice and warm. Repulse Bay. 2010. (Credit: Christian Barnett)

Annie Angotialuk. Carrying her daughter in a traditional Amauti keeps both Annie and child nice and warm. Repulse Bay. 2010. (Credit: Christian Barnett)

ALASKA

Jared Miller, the champion high-school wrestler of Kotzebue. Alaska, 2009. (Credit: Christian Barnett)

Jared Miller, the champion high-school wrestler of Kotzebue. Alaska, 2009. (Credit: Christian Barnett)

Chasity Herbert, the newly crowned Miss Fort Yukon. Fort Yukon, Alaska. 2009. (Credit: Christian Barnett)

Chasity Herbert, the newly crowned Miss Fort Yukon. Fort Yukon, Alaska. 2009. (Credit: Christian Barnett)


 

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