Sebastian Copeland: A Travelogue

In 2010, I crossed the Greenland ice sheet from South to North on skis. Since then, I have returned to northern Greenland many times, exploring the sea ice and observing its melt cycles. I have forged friendships within the Inughuit community that have enabled me to travel to some of the most isolated settlements. Notably, I spent time in the tiny village of Qeqertat (population 12) where I documented the hunters’ way of life. These trips taught me how climate change and the infiltration of western values and commodities are affecting the local cultures.

The elders who live in the far north have gone from the ice age to the space age in less than 50 years. The one-two-punch of shorter winters and the free money of government subsidies (Denmark in Greenland, Canada in Nunavut) is threatening the proud heritage and way of life of these hunting cultures. Skidoos with their loud gasoline engines are competing with the traditional dog teams and sleds; skin canoes are edged out by plastic skiffs with diesel motors. 4,000 years of symbiotic co-existence in this harsh landscape is proving no match to the long arms of western enterprise.

From observing the devastating impact of climate change on the polar ice, I have recently trained my studies and my lens on the people whose way of life itself is endangered. Inspired by Edward S. Curtis work with American Indians, I have taken to documenting a proud people holding on to their tradition in the age of TikTok. Central to these studies is the ice itself. Like sentinels of times that predate humans, icebergs are the valiant storytellers of nature’s timescales.

Far from desolate, the photographs I bring back from my latest expedition to Greenland in spring 2023 represents hope – a hope that is grounded in the emotional bond that this grand Nature generates in us. We save what we love. Because when Nature speaks and we fail to listen, photography can make us hear with our eyes. And fall in love. This series amplifies Nature’s rightful, glorious voice, and the profound cellular bond that connects us.

Sebastian Copeland

Some of these photographs will be featured in his upcoming book »The Arctic: A Darker Shade of White« (Rizzoli, 2024) with a foreword by Dr. Jane Goodall. (Publication date: fall 2024)

Watch a video from one of Sebastian Copeland’s remarkable travels here.


List of works: Sebastian Copeland
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