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SVALBARD, AN ARCTICFICIAL LIFE (2013-2014)

This photo project proposes a sort of inventory of a very special society that has settled in the Svalbard archipelago, at latitude 78° North. I was interested in the way mankind settled in this territory, and how life developed there until the present, and made a first trip to absorb myself in the atmosphere of this place, which fascinates me enormously. I returned, even better prepared, attracted essentially by the unusual side of this society, which was always based on geopolitical issues and where the traces of events in the past permeate in the daily life on the island.

I immersed myself in the towns of Longyearbyen, Barentsburg and Ny-Ålesund. Intrigued by this society, several questions arose: does the presence of man not appear surprising, even unexpected, in a barren land where one cannot even find a single tree to build a house with? How is it possible to have a “normal” and modern life in a hostile environment, a thousand kilometers [some 600 miles] from the North Pole, where every year the sun disappears for three months and also doesn’t set for three months?

Human settlement on Svalbard is very varied. One can, on a small inhabited space, find many different things: remnants of war, trapper cabins, traces of animal life, Norwegian and Russian settlements, as well as scientific installations; the sample is large. The coexistence of past and present and the proximity of two completely different towns, Longyearbyen and Barentsburg, one looking to the future, the other turned to the past, is surprising. Is the presence of a limousine surprising in a place where schools hold safety drills in case of a visit by a polar bear, where the priest moves about by helicopter, where houses so close to the North Pole have balconies?