Kangerlussuaq: Landscape and Identity in a Changing Arctic
This project explores the highly unusual geopolitical history of the remote Arctic town of Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, as it faces a postcolonial future and the impact of global climate change. One objective is to produce a photo book showing manifestations of the past 80 years of human interaction with the environment there. Beautiful, awe-inspiring, and often downright quirky, this town of 500 people, isolated at the end of a 118-mile-long fjord, has been distinctively shaped by its history as a World War II and Cold War American and Danish Air Force base until 1992. Meanwhile, transformations via climate change are starkly visible at the edge of the inland ice cap that covers 80% of Greenland.
I first visited the town for 24 hours as part of a group educational tour of the Arctic in 2018 and was fascinated by how its history had shaped it distinctly differently from every other Greenland town I've visited. After obtaining a Rubys Award from the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation, after a year-long delay due to the pandemic I spent a month photographing there in September 2021. I am currently sorting through the photographs with the eventual goal of producing a photo book history which will be the first book of any kind in any language. Photographs and 3D scans made via photogrammetry will also become a new exhibit in the Kangerlussuaq Museum concerning the ice cap, ecology, and how the town's history manifests itself in the landscape today. Follow my progress and read more about some of the places in the archived posts in Current News & Events.
Shown left, the town of some 500 residents is filled with vestiges of its history as a US and Danish military base from 1941 to 1992. Part of my project involved rephotographing sites found in vintage photographs, such as the 3rd from the top from the Danish Arctic Institute Collection, taken in 1972.
The impact of a warming global climate is clear in comparing these photographs I took of what locals call the "Reindeer Glacier" when I was briefly there in August 2018 and the one below, photographed in September 2021; in three years much ice had disappeared. I have also photographed the dramatic evidence of climate change at other nearby sites along the edge of the Greenland ice cap.