Arctic the final frontier: the beauty of an endangered world on exhibit in Venice

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Arctic the final frontier: great reportage photography, an evocative exhibition in Venice

Arctic the final frontier will be on show at Casa dei Tre Oci in Venice, from January 15th until April 3rd 2017. Environmental emergency, climate change, global warming. An exhibition not to be missed aims to bring our attention to this current and serious issues.

A celebration of the immense power of nature in all her beauty and adversity, seen through the eyes of three masters photographers: Ragnar Axelsson, Carsten Egevang and Paolo Solari Bozzi.

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The focus is on the natural beautiful scenery of this borderland: the amazing Arctic environment. More than ever in the spotlight in recent times, with the alarming news of increasing temperature in the North Pole, peaking 20 degrees above average. We are used to seeing images of pure white ice glaciers shrinking more and more every year, of disoriented polar bears on a small sheet of ice. Although, you won’t find here on show the typical reporting pictures, in which style gives way to content.

  • Awareness in the audience is raised through a real celebration of wonder: landscapes, nature, wildlife, human beings and their traditions. An environmental heritage that unfortunately is about to disappear.
  • An aesthetic approach, which enhances landscapes, wildlife and main characters of the arctic land. Highlighting shapes, structure, lights and motion.
  • The formal purity of black and white to grasp with a camera a world that in a not so distant future could no longer exist.

A kind photography which is able to combine storytelling and social engagement, in a never ending game playing with the ambiguities of photography itself (Denis Curti, curator of the exhibition and  the artistic director of Casa dei Tre Oci)</ 

There are 120 pictures on exhibit, taken by three photographers who share a passion for endless open spaces in harsh and freezing lands: Greenland, Siberia, Iceland.  Three reporters who have a purpose: bring to the attention of a sensitive audience the traditions of the Inuit population, which is today surrendering to the fast-moving modern world.

Authors say that the idea of the exhibition came during a meeting on these lands of ice, in a remote region: the East coast of Greenland, one of the most isolated areas in the northern corner of the earth. Every reporter was there to complete his work, but the encounter sparks the idea of a common project, which results in the Venice event.

Artico ultima frontiera Ragnar Axelsson Iceland

Ragnar Axelsson, Iceland, 1995

Three looks at the Arctic

Ragnar Axelsson, the explorer of the Great North

The exhibition starts with the pictures by Ragnar Axelsson (Kopavogur, Iceland, 1958),  who has been a tireless Arctic explorer for more than thirty years. He tells a story about ancient crafts, about fighting for survival, about men as hard as ice. About gazes held through the fog and prodigious animals emerging from storms. Inuit people (Eskimo) are the heart of his research. Portraits of men surrounded by an overwhelming nature, whose life seems threatened by changes in the environment.

The Icelandic photographer tells us how he had met, some 25 years ago, a wise old man from Thule who was deeply intent “sniffing air” while staring at the melting ice. Axelsson heard the man saying a few words which moved him and became a turning point for his work:

It shouldn’t be like this, there is something wrong, the big ice is sick (an old man from Thule, 25 years ago) 

It was the beginning of his commitment, the start of a big adventure to record “the everyday life of the people living at the edge of the planet”. People constantly forced to deal with the massive changes in the environment taking place nowadays.

Artico ultima frontiera Paolo Solari Bozzi-Sermilik Fjord, Groenlandia 2016

Paolo Solari Bozzi, Sermilik Fjord, Greenland, 2016

Paolo Solari Bozzi, an analogue photographer in wide open spaces

A key topic also for Paolo Solari Bozzi (Roma, 1957) who loves places at world’s end. He has been to Africa some years ago, then, between February and April 2016 he visited different villages of Greenland, where he took the pictures shown at this exhibition. A new reportage, which became his latest book Greenland into white (Electa, 2017).

  • He prefers panoramic photos with horizontally stretched fields of view. White spaces cut by sledges tracks; impressive, huge ice sheets; animal skins drying in the sun; unlimited, windswept land.
  • He defines himself as “analogue photographer”, as proven by high-quality prints on display in the show.
  • Devoted to black and white, because “colour, though beautiful, distracts and cannot provide a window into people’s souls”.

His reportage is a journey in the everyday life of the Inuit people, today reduced to only 150.000 individuals. They live in a precarious balance, torn between the past and an uncertain future. The harsh reality of the struggle for survival between man and nature has been replaced by the uncertainty of their identity.

I left for Greenland thinking that I was going to meet the Inuit with their bear and seal furs. But I soon realized that it was not going to be like that because today the Inuit wear Western clothing and their kids all own a cell phone. The Inuit are going through a delicate transition phase that is causing them to abandon centuries-old traditions, replacing them with those of today’s world. Their grandparents still lived underground. Some say they were better off than they are now because at least they were sheltered from the harsh weather that their small wooden houses imported from Denmark can’t keep out when the wind blows over 200 km an hour. They ate only locally-sourced food and they had been doing the same domestic rituals for centuries. Now, instead, many of them would like to migrate, no longer having to put up with the hard labour of hunting and fishing in glacial temperatures. (Paolo Solari Bozzi)
Artico ultima frontiera Paolo Solari Bozzi Groenlandia 5

Paolo Solari Bozzi, Sermilik Fjord, Greenland, 2016

Carsten Egevang, the biologist with the camera

Also according to  Carsten Egevang (Taastrup, Danimarca, 1969), monochrome photography forces the viewer to focus on content. A black and white picture has no time, you can’t immediately guess its date.

Looking at the Danish photographer’s images, you feel overwhelmed by the power of wild nature. Pictures reveal a very intense and strong interdependence between environment, human beings and arctic fauna. In few other places in the world, the connection between people, animals and the surrounding environment is as intense as it is in this area of the planet.

Egevang trained as a biologist and was awarded a PhD in Arctic Biology. He lived in Greenland from 2002 to 2008 and is known for his photography reports about the life of polar seabirds. Therefore animals play the main role in his pictures.

Artico ultima frontiera Carsten Egevang-Groenlandia 4

Carsten Egevang, West Greenland, Thule, 2014

When I first started taking photographs of Greenland, the first thing I was drawn to, like so many others, was the beauty of its places. I wanted to photograph the colours of the landscape, the icebergs, the Northern Lights and the arctic fauna. Whenever I inadvertently included a human being or a house, in my picture, I would discard it. Today my approach has changed radically. Now my mission is to document how the natives of Greenland still rely on the surrounding nature. I strive to place humans and animals in a larger context, seeking to depict them as elements of the breathtaking landscape. 

Which future?

Unfortunately, each passing season brings further retreating of the sea ice, which is dramatically affecting the migratory routes of animals. The habitat of the arctic fauna is shrinking and the hunting ground for animals and men is decreasing.

If you love great photography related to environmental issues, follow Arctic Arts Project, an association whose members include the most famous and gifted naturalist photographers of our age. It aims to make the impact of climate change on the Arctic known to the world. Egevang is a core member of the association. The task of the “polar” photographers is really valuable. It requires a long stay in a difficult and hostile environment, in extreme weather conditions. Their work is priceless, because it makes us aware, fascinated witnesses of a world which deserves to remain unspoiled.

Artico ultima frontiera Ragnar Axelsson Siberia 4

Ragnar Axelsson, Nenets, Siberia 2016

Three captivating video documentaries add to the narrative of the exhibition:

  • SILA AND THE GATEKEEPERS OF THE ARCTIC, by the Swiss photographer and film director Corina Gamma
  • CHASING ICE  directed by the American Jeff Orlowski
  • THE LAST ICE HUNTERS, >,  a documentary by Jure Breceljnik and Rozle Bregar, film directors from the Czech Republic


Hashtags of the exhibition: #treoci, #articovenezia

Arctic the final frontier. 15.01.2017 > 02.04.2017. Casa dei Tre Oci. Fondamenta delle Zitelle 43 ,Venezia.

Everyday  10 – 18; closed on Tuesdays. Phone +39 041 24 12 332


This is your next step!

Choose to act!

ACT NOW! I Love This Planet

ACT NOW! I Love This Planet

  • Maria Cristina
    February 6, 2017

    Immagini mozzafiato, che scatenano mille emozioni e costringono a riflettere sulla responsabilità umana… Perché troppo spesso dimentichiamo che siamo noi ad aver bisogno della Natura, non la Natura di noi!

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