'Melting Away': Climate change and Greenland's Inuits

Over the past five years, photographer Ciril Jazbec has documented the changing lives of the Inuit people in Greenland, the world’s largest island, which is covered by the world’s largest and fastest-melting ice sheet. This fact, together with the darkening of its surface, mean the changes in Greenland will affect the entire planet and its species, most scientists have come to agree.

Jazbec’s long-term project, Melting Away, is about a people at the forefront of climate change, who have an ancient knowledge of hunting and are searching for ways to survive a collapsing ecosystem.

The roughy 700 Inuits of Qaanaaq and Siorapaluk, the world’s northernmost settlements inhabited by natives, continue their traditional ways despite several alarming climate, environmental and cultural threats. However, the Inuits’ resilience is being tested by the new constant of unpredictable hour-to-hour or day-to-day changes in weather. Once able to hunt for weeks on the sea ice, people living there now only travel for a day and have been forced to give up their dog teams. With such poor hunting conditions, young people are leaving smaller settlements like Qaanaaq for the growing capital, Nuuk.

Jazbec explains, “Melting Away project is my long-term body of work on which I plan to work on for the rest of my career. I keep returning back to the Arctic almost on a yearly basis, because I feel a very honest urge to document the climate change crisis. Throughout my trips, I have managed to establish incredible relationships with the Inuit people, and I am fortunate to be able to count many Greenlanders as my friends. We are in the constant touch about the new unfolding events. Daily life of Inuits is changing rapidly due to the climate change and being able to capture and communicate this change is my main vision. This requires a lot of resources and energy from my side; however, I deeply care about our planet and feel like my work can help fight the climate change. I grew up in a small Slovenian village surrounded by nature, and also from this stems my inspiration to do the projects that raise awareness about environmental issues.”

Born in Slovenia in 1987, Jazbec studied management in Ljubljana before moving to London. He earned his master’s degree in photojournalism and documentary photography at the London College of Communication. He has been working as a contributing photographer for National Geographic Magazine since 2014. His work is focused on communities confronting the effects of globalization and climate change. He was awarded the Leica Oskar Barnack Newcomer Award 2013, and won awards from Photo Folio Review Les Rencontres d’Arles 2013, Magnum 30 under 30 2015, PDN’30 New and emerging photographers to watch 2016, and Pictures of the Year International 2018. His work has been featured in National Geographic Magazine, the New York Times, GEO, Der Spiegel, Neu Zürcher Zeitung, Marie Claire Italy, Leica Fotografie International, Wired UK and the British Journal of Photography.

Melting Away by Ciril Jazbec, winner of the Visura & United Photo Industries‘s 2018 Grant for Visual Storytelling on Climate Change, will have an artist’s talk on June 19, 2018, from 6 to 8 p.m. at United Photo Industries in Brooklyn, N.Y. The exhibition will be on view through June 29, 2018.

Photography by Ciril Jazbec

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