In early 2013, I went into a one-month stay in Greenland, sharing life with some of its inhabitants, up to the northernmost settlements. A trip from 67° to 77° parallel on the way up to Qaanaaq, after a year and a half of preparation, with the aim to highlight the current mutations.

I’ve always been fascinated by the people who once settled in “hostile” environments, especially those subject to cold and ice. By the end of 2011, going to Greenland appeared like an evidence. In the long preliminary process of documenting it clearly appeared that my growing fascination for Greenland was more than just the expected white aesthetics of its landscapes. It actually appeared that the tales that I’ve had in head since my childhood were not so accurate – and that the same also applies to the landscapes. And yet, I was still not aware that every day of the stay would later be as many occasions to challenge my knowledges in the country again. From the front-row seats the country undergoes the effects of climate changes, and witnesses deep transformation of the society since the latest decades: the modification of the environment thus operates along with a growing openness to “western” lifestyles and consumption habits. The questions that are raised in Greenland today go far beyond its borders.

With basic notions of the Greenlandic Inuit language “Kalaallisut” that I had learned in the preparation process, I had the chance to meet incredibly interesting – and welcoming – people, and share their lifes, witnessing the range of differences in the ways of life, from the life in the ever-growing “western-like” towns to the night in tents on the sea-ice hunting seals. In some incredibly diverse landscapes, supermarkets and mobile phones come into Inuit culture, and skin-made traditional outfits are no longer used but at the very north for dogsledge trips. What Greenland looks like today is most probably very different from what a lot of people expect, very different from the Inuit-tales cliche. What is especially interesting is indeed how unexpected it can be: mixing traditions and very “western”-world into a new changing and melting culture. These strong and fast changes question society and identity, and divide the country’s opinion as seen in the last elections: between the will to follow what seems to be the rail of History, and the feeling to be the people of the ice, melting away all the same.

Allanngorpoq can be translated into “being transformed” from Greenlandic.

Click on any picture below to look at the project. Full screen mode is recommended.

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Sebastien Tixier, 2013.

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