Given our current climate context, is it even ethical to visit the Arctic for photography’s sake? For Nori Jemil, travel photographer and author of The Travel Photographer’s Way, it’s about more than just getting a good photograph—it’s triggering an emotional response in the viewer.
A place of snowy dominions and extreme cold, the north is resonant of big, icy tundra, wolves, and the magical aurora borealis. And given the stark beauty of the backdrop to activities like alpine skiing or wildlife watching, it’s hard for photographers not to become mesmerized by the notion of ‘traveling north’.
And the islands and archipelagos outside the Arctic Circle are no less impressive than the lands within parallel 66.5 degrees north. Iceland and its frozen waterfalls and ice caves are easily reached via its ring road—a boon for the equipment-laden photographer—while the remote and windswept Faroe and Shetland Islands have some of those lush yet rugged landscapes redolent of the ancient Icelandic Sagas or The Game of Thrones.
Yet the great compulsion driving me toward the Arctic on my first ever visit was the growing threat that the ice was receding and that polar bears might become extinct within this century. It’s difficult not to fear for Earth’s great wilderness areas—and for all of humanity too, especially in the face of recent extreme, catastrophic weather events.