The Temporal Surface of Olaf Otto Becker’s Greenland Icebergs

Olaf Otto Becker has spent fourteen summers travelling across the western coast of Greenland. His project ‘Broken Line’, documents the effects of global warming on the coastal landscape and the glaciers that form there. The project took him on a 4000km journey along the west coast of Greenland alone in a rubber zodiac raft, documenting the landscape with a large format camera. In this series, Becker explored the relationship between the fragile arctic landscapes and the people who live and work there. The series took him to the settlements of Oquaatsut, Ikerasak, Tasiussaq and Nuussauq, where he photographed small, isolated wooden houses with brightly painted facades nestled in amongst the forbidding and ever-changing landscapes.

Becker titles all of his photographs with precise GPS location coordinates and dates, so that himself and viewers may visit the same site in years to come and observe how it has changed. One work from the ‘Broken Line’ series, Ilulissat Icefjord 6, 07/2003 69° 11’58” N, 51° 07’08” W depicts an iceberg, distanced from the camera lens and viewer between a strip of water with hundreds of ice shards floating upon it. The monumental iceberg is fractured with architectural-like summits, the tips of which are highlighted by the sunset whilst the remaining surfaces are in the shadows. The photograph has depth, mystery, beauty and melancholy, akin to the rest of Becker’s works. With them all, there is a reminder of temporality in all aspects – the hours, days and months it took Becker to photograph such scenes, and the diminishing time that these icebergs may exist in our ever-changing, damaged environment.

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