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BEHIND THE SCENES

21.02.2016

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The Stella Polaris * Ulloriarsuaq project presents an artistic and spiritual perspective on climate change in the far northern reaches. The Aurora Borealis, the Arctic starry night sky, and artificial lighting emphasize the beauty of nature and its connection to humanity.

The team behind Stella Polaris * Ulloriarsuaq is made up of photographers Nomi Baumgartl and Sven Nieder, the director Yatri N. Niehaus and Laali Lyberth as coordinator on location. They went on two expeditions during the polar night – one in November 2012 and the other in February 2013. A special role was played by the inhabitants of Greenland. While the photographers set up their tripods a few hundred metres apart, the so-called “Light Ambassadors” lit up the glaciers. Exposures of thirty seconds to two minutes, clear, starry skies and the interplay with the Aurora Borealis resulted in fascinating images, where glaciers and icebergs glow like islands of light in the landscape.

Baumgartl and Nieder explored every glacier and iceberg before returning at night with the film crew and light ambassadors. It was only after the scenes and pictures had been discussed among the team, that the equipment was brought to the locations on snow mobiles and dog sleighs. During the first expedition it was all about the team collecting experience. “You can’t try out such a project. I’ve already done a lot with light painting in Germany, but how things would work with the ice and minus 40 degrees was not clear to us beforehand,” Nieder explains. The photo shoot proved to be a test of endurance for both the people and the materials. Equipped with the Leica S system and 30 to 180 mm lenses, they managed an average of one motif per night. At each spot there were various teams of light ambassadors who received instruction from Nieder via walkie-talkie. Each long exposure was like a choreography. The team was soon well-rehearsed and able to draw on the values of the first experiences. How much light was needed for each shot? Where should the photographers be placed?

A myth among the peoples of Greenland says that wisdom is hidden in the ice. This would seem to make the intention of photographing the melting ice all the more dramatic. Are you not afraid of the melting ice? “I believe it is a choice,” Sven Nieder replies. “A choice whether the things we see make us afraid or give us hope. I’ve made the decision to share the good news, and we’re doing so with amazingly beautiful pictures. Of course, what's happening there is dramatic, but, like everything else, these changes also offer an opportunity. If we manage to convey the fact that everything is linked together, then we and the project have achieved something. So, I’m not afraid – I see hope in these things. Hope and a sign that we can change things. That’s also the reason for the title Stella Polaris * Ulloriarsuaq – the north star that has been guiding humanity for centuries. That’s something we need more than ever today, to have a direction: the direction humanity needs to move in – and that means all of us together.”

You can read a full article in LFI 2/2016.
© Nomi Baumgartl / Stella Polaris * Ulloriarsuaq
© Sven Nieder / Stella Polaris * Ulloriarsuaq
© Sven Nieder / Stella Polaris * Ulloriarsuaq
© Sven Nieder / Stella Polaris * Ulloriarsuaq
© Sven Nieder / Stella Polaris * Ulloriarsuaq
© Sven Nieder / Stella Polaris * Ulloriarsuaq
© Sven Nieder / Stella Polaris * Ulloriarsuaq
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