Norwegian photographers at the Nordic Photo Exhibition

They have made a name for themselves both in Norway and internationally. Renowned Norwegian photographers Andrea Gjestvang and Knut Egil Wang will be displaying some of their work at the Nordic Photo Exhibition in Beijing and Shanghai.

The Nordic Photo Exhibition opens for the first time in November this year. Held alongside the Nordox Nordic Documentary Film Festival, the exhibition will show the work of some of the most interesting photographers in the Nordic countries today. Two of them are the Norwegian photographers Andrea Gjestvang and Knut Egil Wang.
Disappearing Ice Age

Andrea Gjestvang is bringing photos from her project ‘Greenland – Disappearing Ice Age’. Between 2008 and 2010, she made several trips to Greenland and travelled along the coast to see how Greenlander’s way of life and identity is affected by climate changes and challenges of a modernising society.

Over the last century adventurers have travelled to Greenland to explore this unknown land of ice and myths. The pictures they have brought back depict heroes battling against nature. Today, however, many of us know very little about life on the world’s largest island, where 57,600 inhabitants live on fifteen percent of the land and the rest is covered with ice. Greenland is going through a period of rapid change. Traditionally, most Greenlanders have relied on hunting and fishing for employment and income with very few other job opportunities. This is amplified by the fact that most people live in isolated communities along the coast. However, climate change is reshaping the natural environment. As the global temperature rises, the Greenland glaciers are melting at a record pace, which in turn is threatening the traditional way of life. At the same time, global warming has made other natural resources accessible and this opens the possibility of a new Greenland. Aluminium plants, mines and oil exploration are expected to infuse the island with much needed income.

Triggered by her curiosity to take a deeper look into a culture in flux, Andrea Gjestvang first travelled to Greenland in 2008. In the following years she spent several weeks visiting small communities along the west and east coast, and in the very north. While the idea of a strong hunter’s culture is alive in Greenlandic legends and myths, the reality is that the livelihood in these villages often comes through government funding. The new opportunities expected to come from natural resources are have also led many to believe that this might replace government subsidies and allow for independence from Denmark.

Through her project, Gjestvang tries to observe what happens to small settlements and intimate family life when traditional livelihood disappears and people need to search for a new identity and new ways of living. “What happens when the established and safe disappears and people have to reshape and remake their identities and their way of life? This is the question I asked myself” she says. “I am fascinated by the perseverance of Greenlanders living in an extreme and inaccessible part of the world.”

The project was funded through a scholarship by the Norwegian Freedom of Expression Foundation and the photos have been published in numerous publications in Norway and internationally. They have also been exhibited in solo shows in Milan and Hamburg as well as photo festivals in Europe and the US. The pictures were recently a part of the main exhibition Hope: Between Dream and Reality at the New York Photo Festival 2011. Visit her website to have a look at her work.

Andrea Gjestvang will be introducing her project, Images from the Norwegian countryside, at UCCA on 13 November at 1400.

Knut Egil Wang is bringing photos from his book project ‘Dum og andre steder i Norge’. The images in the exhibition were originally made for a book about Norwegian places with funny or weird names. Knut Egil Wang and the author travelled many places, many of them rarely spoken of, and some of them very remote and unlikely to get many visitors, if any at all. “Places considered by many to have nothing must have something. Centre and periphery might be the same place. What matters is where you are”, says Knut Egil Wang. “Even though the names can only be fully understood in Norwegian the images might give an idea and a feeling of what rural Norway is like: small places with ordinary people surrounded by nature.” Previously he has also published a book called Traktorland (Tractor Land) about tractors and youths in rural Norway and his latest project is about Norwegians on holiday.

Wang tries to photograph exceptional things in ordinary, daily life: Normal things that sometimes have a quirky twist to it. “Magical moments in unexpected places might be rare and hard to capture, but that is why I keep looking” Wang remarks.

Knut Egil Wang has travelled extensively and through his work has depicted life in places as diverse as Transdniestr, Varanasi and remote communities in Norway. Visit his website to have a look at his projects.

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