The Australian photographer Jessie Brinkman Evans wants people to learn something new through her images; but she also wants to convey familiarity and intimacy – even if the person or place is completely unknown to the viewer. One of the most beautiful things about humanity, says Jessie Brinkman Evans, is how different and yet similar life is around the globe.

What brought you to Greenland?
Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve been enamoured with the Arctic; my favourite thing to watch as a child was any documentary that featured the Northern Lights! It only continued as I got older. In my mid-twenties, I found myself in a strange place in my life, and decided that it was the perfect time to continue exploring the Arctic. I reached out to Visit Greenland and worked with them for a month, and I’ve been going back ever since.

What are the challenges there for a photographer?
The cold! I’ve had -40°C winters, with my spare batteries shrouded by heat packs in my interior pockets, and even then you have to be intentional and patient with what you want to shoot. After being outside, it’s important to leave your gear by the door so that it’s able to come back to room temperature slowly; if exposed to warm and humid air inside, it can freeze, and the ice that forms causes a myriad of issues.

What is the significance of the cold/snow, both for the inhabitants and for the outside world?
The snow has a significance that is hard to quantify. It holds so much – both historically and culturally. Snow heralds the coming of winter, which brings essential animals like the narwhal. With the snows come colder temperatures, which allow the seas to freeze and dog sleds to be used for visiting family and friends, and for hunting. When it comes to taking pictures in the snow, things can become a little messy. Dense, small flakes can make focusing a challenge, and read as grainy in the final image. Big fluffy snow tends to stick to your lens which can be a nightmare to clean off!

You show both landscapes and the people who live in them. How do you bring the two together?
I approached these photographs by focusing on the relationship between people and the land. Most of the portraits were made outside while subjects were engaging together with the world around them. Capturing that point of interaction, lent balance to images of vast landscapes and minute details that rely on each other for context.

You use close-up and long shot for your images…
I wanted to convey depth and scale in the landscape, then bring in details of culture and community either given from the land or inspired by it. The portraits of residents bring the essential human touch. I wanted the entire collection to be cohesive, but for these individual elements to stand together on their own: to bring the viewer in to ask questions, or to lose themselves in the vastness of the Arctic.

What was your experience with the Leica Q2 and the SL2?
I bought the Q2 in May of 2019 and it’s barely left my side since! The colours impressed me so much that, when I was in Greenland in February of 2020, I worked on a collection to depict the winter tones using only the Q2. It’s become my undying workhorse. The SL2 is a dream. While I’m eternally grateful for the support from Leica in loaning it for this project, it was very hard to give it back! The camera is incredibly user-friendly and intuitive. I push my gear in these environments and it keeps up for hours in the cold and, much like the Q2, has an ISO range which is excellent for shooting in limited daylight.

How important were working with colour and light for you?
Light and colour have the ability to transport you to another world. For this series I wanted to evoke the feelings of isolation and the cold, but retain the warmth of the community through portraits. Sometimes you have to wait days for the right light, but, more often than not, in Greenland that light occurs serendipitously and without warning. In those moments it’s important to be flexible with whatever your plans were.

Your pictures show the beauty of nature, the colours in the snow and the life of the inhabitants – but behind it all is the danger of climate change.
We’re more likely to pay attention to how climate change is affecting other communities if we can relate to them. That connection might be through something as abstract as the dreams we hold for our children, or as tangible as the coffee we drink in the morning. Realizing those connections brings down barriers and makes it easier for us to learn.

What did you take back to Australia from Greenland?
Traditional knowledge is something I’ve come away thinking more about. Living in fast-paced cities is a stark contrast to speaking with hunters, who can recognise an oncoming storm by the colour of the mountains across the fjord. There is knowledge and respect towards the land, that we’ve become divorced from elsewhere. Listening to Indigenous communities and finding a deeper purpose in our culture—outside of our jobs—is key to addressing most of our global challenges.

Jessie Brinkman Evans is a Melbourne-based photographer who balances her time between editorial, documentary, and unit stills photography. In addition to her work with clients including Parks Canada, Visit Greenland, Conde Nast Traveller, and Broadsheet, her work has appeared in Atavist Magazine, VICE, and the Maritime Edit. She is currently developing a solo exhibition of material from her most recent trip to Greenland. Find out more about her photography on her website and Instagram page.

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