”Svalbard, an arctic life” is a photographic project in progress showing human life, in all aspects, half way between the North of Europe and the North Pole.
The Svalbard archipelago is the spot closest to the North Pole where human beings settled and who are still searching for their place. Spitzberg, which is the only island that is inhabited, has more ghost towns than inhabited ones. Mankind came and went.
Svalbard has two cities that are alive: Barenstburg and Longyearbyen.
Barentsburg is protected by Russia and run by the coal mining company ”Arctikugol”. Its population is quasi self-sufficient, since on this Norwegian territory the Russians have to respect European norms on security and some other, Norwegian, rules. They are, for example, not permitted to build an airport or to own snowmobiles, thus depriving them of freedom of movement.
Longyearbyen, on the other hand, is inhabited by Norwegians and some forty other nationalities. It is in full change. Not happy with their precarious living conditions, the population doesn’t stop accelerating the metamorphosis of their city and to render their daily lives more pleasant despite the harsh polar conditions. As a consequence, the economy grows thanks to the dynamic of the 2000 inhabitants and thanks to tourist activities, such as expeditions, cruises in the arctic, two music festivals, hotels, pubs, etc.
It is my intention to produce a photographic testimony of the coexistence of two populations, Russian and Norwegian; about the way they settled and live in this unspoiled land.
These photographs will reflect the different footprints of human settlement in this harsh and extreme environment; very different footprints : a Norwegian town following a Scandinavian pattern, a Soviet town where time seems to have stopped, scientific installations to observe the sky or to receive remote sensing data from outer space, huts spread over the snowed up plains, as well as ghost towns. So many testimonials of the passage of man and his appropriation of this land.
I invite you to discover my work on my website : www.juliadecooker.com