Embraced by the harsh winter and covered by layers of snow almost year-round, the town of Uummannaq in Greenland provided an ideal setting for photographer Camille M’s latest series “The Last Men.” Inhabited by no more than 1,300 souls, his photos gives viewers a peek into the beautiful isolated world of this charming town, teeming with spectacular landscapes and endless beauty of nature. “While I was there, I found myself lost within the area’s disturbing, almost lunar landscapes. I began to absorb local traditions and Inuit mythology. The seemingly benign was subtly transformed into great theater, where everything seemed possible. The longer I stayed, I more I saw how this innocent-seeming, heart-shaped island is deeply strange: touched by isolation, ecological catastrophes and abandonment. The tiny population rests on the precipice of disaster. The very decline of civilization sits next to those who still resist—the Last Men,” reads Camille M’s artist statement describing her series.
How did the idea for “The Last Men” came about?
I have always been attracted by the idea of decovering remote places, the people living there and the stories they enclose. I traveled a few times in Lapony where I discovered the Sami community, and then I decided to go to Greenland.
Can you tell us the process on how you took each shots from the series?
There is not a particular process. I just like exploring. I often go on my own and wander for hours. During these ‘walks’, I get appealed by a face, a place, a scene, which gives birth to a photography. I do not attend to show the whole place, I do not capture everything. My pictures are subjective and only relate my experience in a space.
Tell us some wonderful discoveries you had while doing the series?
There are many things to tell about Uummannaq. It is hard to be concise! I had the chance to discover a traditional existence, grounded in nature. The best discoveries were how the inhabitants taught me how to steer a sledge, fish in ice, dance polka. The scenery is mind-blowing, and the light in Arctic is very unusual. The sky goes through all possible shades of color… It is fantastic for a photographer. And I made friends among the wolves! Everyone dreams about these places at ‘the end of the world’ through books, TV, or magazines. These places are magic, mystic, fertile for imagination, but they are facing some issues at the moment. The impact of the modern world, climate change, pollution. This creates a strong dichotomy that is shown in my pictures.
How different it is to shoot images in a distant and reclusive environment of Greenland compared to the more populated countries?
I really enjoyed making photographs in Greenland. Obviously there is a period of time required to adapt, especially regarding the language. You also need to adapt to the rough weather in winter and to a more traditional lifestyle. But people are welcoming and keen on helping you. I did not feel loneliness. Time goes slower in Arctic, and it gives the time to think about a lot of things…
What level of elation do you feel as a photographer when you realized you have succeeded in telling a compelling narrative through your photographs?
I don’t know if I succeeded! However, I attached a great importance to the idea of ‘narration’ in photography. If my pictures tell stories, then I am happy. By the way, I am currently working on a book about my work in Uummannaq.
Lastly, tell our readers about your next photography series plans + (projects)
I just joined the Hans Lucas agency in Paris. I am working on my first major personal exhibition at the Filature de Mulhouse in 2017. My next trip I am going to live in the middle of the steppes in Mongolia with a nomad family. But I won’t talk about this work yet. After all, discovering other cultures, meeting people, living with them, is what I am interested in. And photography is a way of narrating these experiences.
To see more of Camille Michel‘s other works, check out her website. To be considered for Photographer of the Day, follow us on Instagram @resourcemag and e-mail submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “POTD Submission.”