The Swedish photojournalist has been working with Greenpeace in the Arctic for over 20 years.
A photojournalist has been able to document the dramatic changes of the natural landscape through working with Greenpeace for over two decades. 42-year-old Christian Åslund, from Sweden, has spent the majority of his life in the Arctic whilst documenting the rapidly occurring changes. Whilst the alien landscapes of the Arctic have always been fascinating to many, long remaining a world of portent and mystery, modern times have now turned the area into more of a tourist destination full of explorers, researchers, and fuel industry prospectors who are changing the landscape. Åslund explains his assignment in collaboration with Greenpeace to National Geographic where he says that he was able to take photos of the exact same landscape decades later. He explains that with the use of archives from the early 1900s, they were able to trace the exact location where the photographers were when they took the original photographs, and then travel to the specific location and follow their footsteps. He said, “I shot this in 2003. Knowledge of climate change wasn’t as common, our attitudes towards climate change were different. Now more or less everyone knows it’s a fact. It’d be interesting to go back and shoot from the exact same locations again.”
He goes on to explain the climate change that he has seen during his work with Greenpeace since 1998, “What’s happening in the Arctic is spreading around the whole globe. I have also been visiting countries directly affected by climate change—floods, natural disasters, and drought. It is the biggest challenge we face and we must act now before it’s too late. In Kiribati last summer, we got to meet the country’s president. He knows climate change is just a fact…they’re buying up land in Fiji so they can evacuate in the future. So you can definitely see its effects in places like that.”
He then talks about the 50/50 split image of the Greenpeace vessel Arctic Sunrise which was taken whilst he was on assignment for Greenpeace Nordic and doing a feature story about seismic testing operations for prospecting new gas and oil reserves around Greenland. The aim of the assignment was to attempt to show the impact of what they were doing, searching and investigating for fuel, which he claims is a very expensive and dangerous operation, particularly in the Arctic where the impacts of climate change are the most obvious. The image was not planned. He said,
“I saw that we were anchored near some smaller icebergs and I wanted to try to capture our vessel and the ice underwater in the same frame. Luckily I had brought the underwater housing with me to Greenland, mainly to try to document the actual blasting from the sound cannons they use during the seismic testing.”
Åslund claims that an image displaying climate change action should be “someone highlighting various measures, large and small, for a new life beyond a fossil-fuel society.” Having experienced climate change firsthand through visiting the arctic for the past two decades, Åslund has physically seen the shocking sights of the decline of the sea ice and the retreating glaciers. He claims that he tries to do things in his own life to reduce the effects of climate change, “I can turn down my consumption to have as low an impact as possible. I do think that Stockholm and Sweden are taking action and working towards more clean energy. Hopefully, we can do that and lower our dependence on the fossil-fuel industry. I think that in Scandinavia we’re very aware of the problem, and we’re doing what we can.” He added,
“Everyone’s got to be aware of the problem of climate change before anything can be done. And that is a big step.”
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