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Book of the Week: A Pick by Forrest Soper

Book of the Week Book of the Week: A Pick by Forrest Soper Forrest Soper selects Arktikugol by Léo Delafontaine as Book of the Week.
ArktikugolBy Léo DelafontaineEditions 77, 2017.
Forrest Soper selects Arktikugol by Léo Delafontaine from Editions 77 as Book of the Week.

"There are few photobooks that I have returned to as often as I have with Léo Delafontaine’s Arktikugol. This book focuses on the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard and the Russian mines that operate there. Thanks to a provision in a 1920s treaty, which was ratified by the Russians in 1935, Russia has been able to operate coal mines here for many generations despite the fact that every single mine has operated at a loss. The mines have remained operational solely for geopolitical reasons. Today only one mine, in the settlement of Barentsburg, remains functional.

In Arktikugol, Delafontaine explores this region and the people that reside there. In a frozen land where polar bears outnumber humans two-to-one, miners and tourism workers alike live and work in a town that seems torn between many worlds. Ukrainians work for a Russian trust but answer to Norwegian law enforcement. Miners are paid in Rubles, in a town that only accepts kroner. Soviet architecture from earlier generations remains present in a region that is rapidly rejecting the stereotypical notions of ‘Russian Identities’ all while attempting to embrace tourism. Arktikugol presents the multifaceted complexities of this world in a striking and compelling fashion.

As a book, Arktikugol seems to have everything. From vernacular photographs, to personal interviews, to a facsimile mining safety pamphlet, Léo Delafontaine has created a body of work that is truly hard to put down. All of this is in addition to the stunning environmental portraits and other documentary images that fill this book. There is an air of a quiet stillness to his photographs that seem to simultaneously embody both loneliness and reflection. Arktikugol looks at how the world of geopolitics affects people on a local level, and how these effects can last many years and generations. Léo Delafontaine’s newest publication is a wonderful example of how contemporary documentary photography blends with fine art and should be celebrated to the highest degree." — Forrest Soper

Purchase Book

ArktikugolBy Léo DelafontaineEditions 77, 2017.
ArktikugolBy Léo DelafontaineEditions 77, 2017.

Forrest Soper is a photographer and artist based out of Santa Fe, New Mexico. A graduate of the Santa Fe University of Art and Design, he also has previously worked at Bostick & Sullivan. Forrest is the Editor of photo-eye Blog.