Monday May 29, 2017

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Arctic earth as extraterrestrial art

The Arctic Journal talks to landscape photographer Jan Erik Waider about capturing some of the most breathtaking geographical features of the Arctic
Subzero temperatures won’t ever deter Waider, as he says he loves the region’s “unpredictable weather” (Photo: Jan Erik Waider)

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From the grand icebergs of Greenland to the awe inspiring Icelandic aurora, Jan Erik Waider’s landscape photography captures the almost-extraterrestrial beauty of some of the Arctic’s most remote locations.

An active photographer for over ten years, Waider studied at the University of Applied Sciences in Schwäbisch Hall and currently resides in Nuremberg, Germany. We asked him a few key questions about his ‘North Landscapes’ work and why he views parts of the region as a “like a second home and a personal haven”.

AJ: Why were you initially drawn to the Arctic?
JW: I’m really drawn to landscapes that transform, change or disappear – especially icebergs and glaciers. Every photograph shows a unique moment, a landscapes which is gone by now, just captured on my camera.

AJ: What do you find most intriguing about the region?
JW: Besides the beauty of ice and these vast landscapes, it’s being the only human out there – it’s a magical feeling. Often there’s no sound at all – no sound of cars or city life, no birds or animals, no leaves rustling in the wind – just silence.

AJ: I’m sure your workdays aren’t particularly ‘typical’ – but how would a normal day on site usually unfold?
JW: I always have my small laptop and some additional batteries with me, and internet coverage is good in [most of] Scandinavia. I often go out on ‘photo-safari’ on my ATV very spontaneously when the weather seems most interesting to me. I don’t find it hard to motivate myself to work in these beautiful places because I have the privilege to be there, and to potentially fund the next trip.

AJ: Which Arctic location has been your favourite to shoot?
JW: So far, it’s still the Disko Bay and the Jakobshavn Glacier near Ilulissat in Greenland. I’m still amazed by the variety of this place and especially the glaciers and the icebergs. I’ve tried to get close to them by foot, on small boats and by helicopter – every perspective was breathtaking. It’s an unforgettable experience – I’m always looking for chances to go back there.

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AJ: What are the biggest difficulties when shooting in such harsh and remote locations?
JW: It’s the weather and how to access these locations. I love the rough weather and the light before or after a storm, but these storms can get dangerous as the conditions can change very quickly – it’s fascinating and a little frightening at the same time. Iceland is particularly wild when it comes to driving in the highlands, with steep hills and river crossings that are especially dangerous. I sometimes drive for hours without seeing anyone [but] I worry more about my equipment than myself, I'm always looking for beautiful motifs in the middle of a blizzard.

AJ: As an ‘expeditionary artist’ do you have a message behind your photographs? 
JW: I don’t want to get too political with my photographs, but the Arctic is changing. I like to show people the beauty of these remote places [and] to show a landscape that might be gone the next day – this is something rare and fascinating in landscape photography. You can visit Yosemite National Park every year and besides some trees or roads, nothing will change drastically. You visit the Arctic and you may find a completely changed landscape the next day.

See more of Jan Erik Waider’s photographs on his website: