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10.05.2017

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Expansive, lonely landscapes, small villages with colourful, wooden houses, bizarre ice formations – William Stewart travelled to Greenland where he photographed the raw beauty of the nature there. We spoke to him about big mysteries and about street photography in a land of eternal ice.  

What was the idea behind A Fortunate Land?

I set out to explore traces of the Vikings in Greenland. They were the first Europeans to discover this large, arctic country; and from here they moved on to the Americas, a place they called Vinland. I consider the breath of their explorations to be an extraordinary feat. This was what first captured my imagination.

Then, the greater puzzle is why a settlement that, late in the 10th century, was largely successful and generated some extraordinary wealth and prosperity in harsh and challenging conditions, then vanished in the 15th century. There is still no consensus as to what happened.

The parallels between this and our current situation – changing climate and economies – are striking. So the idea for the book emerged: to tell this story, this history, within the confines of the landscape of the area within which it unfolded.

Did you always have the book in mind while shooting?

No, the story developed as I worked my way through the photographs I’d taken. When I got there I was was so struck by the environment I was in – how the water, ice, snow and rain, define it. The impact is different in warmer climates – like the rain forest, for example – where it leads to a great richness of habitat. In Greenland the climate is raw and it carves up the land in a relentless manner. I first thought about that as an unifying theme, but I’m glad the book developed further, as it gives a dimension to it that makes it more interesting – at least I hope so!

What was the biggest challenge you faced when taking these photos?

The amount of time I had, I would say. I was only there for a short time, and the environment was so overwhelming, and so different to places I’d been to in the past. And I was there with a group, so I had limited time to photograph things that caught my attention. I could only take the pictures as they came – a bit like street photography. You have to go with the flow and make the best out of every opportunity that arises.

William Stewart

From manager, musician and software designer, to photographer and author – this covers most of William Stewart’s personal resumé. He worked for Apple for a decade. Nowadays he enjoys travelling, writing and photographing – with a particular interest in historical stories. His recent book, A Fortunate Land, is self-published.

All information about the book and prints can be found at: www.albumen-gallery.com
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