Looking at Critical Mass Finalists
Though born in Germany, photographer Birthe Piontek, lives and works in Vancouver, British Columbia. Her photographic star has been rising after becoming a finalist for the Santa Fe Prize in 2007, being named as one of PDN’s 30 in 2008, and having been featured on 20×200 that same year. Her work has been exhibited and published internationally.
The idealization of the North has been nourished by stories by Jack London and Robert Service; by numerous movies about the area’s wild and pristine tapestry; and even by images of the Northern lights, which to this day, although certainly explicable by science, have lost none of their spiritual fascination or magical appeal.
In 2008, I spent three months in a small community in Canada’s Yukon, where I experienced first hand the mystery and fascination of life above the 60th parallel, and met people who came here as part of their quest for the idea of North.
I’m not the first observer to be simultaneously intrigued, yet remain a visitor. Glenn Gould, whose work inspired the title, wrote after visiting the North briefly, “I’ve read about it, written about it, and even pulled up my parka once and gone there. Yet like all but a few Canadians I’ve had no real experience of the North. I’ve remained, of necessity, an outsider. And the North remained for me, a convenient place to dream about, spin tales about,” and in the end, return South.
Images from The Idea of North
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