Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Collector's Print #23 ~ Old Way of the Inuit

Collector's Print #23 ~ Old Way of the Inuit, 1970.  Fine Art Giclee printed on cotton paper.  Size is 12"x 8" at a special price of $75. ($125 value).
The Jim Brandenburg Collectors Series features four seasonal prints a year. Each season, we will feature a new image that has never been printed, and will be available only at the Brandenburg Gallery. The featured image will be a signed and titled, 12"x8" Giclee Fine Art Print on 100% cotton paper at a special price of $75 or framed for $230. Previous seasonal images can be purchased at anytime for $125 or framed for $280. To purchase, contact the Brandenburg Gallery at 877-493-8017 or visit our website at www.jimbrandenburg.com.
In 1970, I left the University of Minnesota one quarter short of completing my Bachelor's degree.  Dr. Art Aufderheide, Minnesota's well known pathologist/anthropologist, asked me to accompany him to Bathurst Inlet in the center of the Canadian Arctic to make a 16mm documentary film of the last Inuit group to live the old way, by dog team, tents and occasional igloos.  They lived a nomadic life, eating raw caribou meat and fish.  Snowmobiles and houses would come the next year as the Canadian government moved them from the land into the community of Cambridge Bay on Victoria Island.  This was my first big adventure and a challenge as a photographer.  Witnessing death and, what seemed to me, unbearable cold and hardship, the family group I was traveling with exhibited a stoic resolve that was a sobering glimpse into the distant past of my own ancient family that survived the ice age in Europe 10,000 years back in time. Anthropologists have often called the Inuit the happiest group of people ever studied - all the while living in the world's most extreme conditions!

Subsequently, the National Geographic Society was interested in making a television special for NBC from this film footage, but the decision was made to keep these dignified people away from the eyes of the popular entertainment world and retain the many hours of rare cultural footage as a pure document.  That is where it stands today.  The footage has never been publicly shown or televised.  A few years later, I was afforded my first real opportunity to work with the National Geographic, again with the television division, on a special called "Strange Creatures of the Night."  Many years later, I would again return to this stark landscape to make a film of the white wolves called "White Wolf," and the National Geographic/BBC award winning film documentary also called "White Wolf."

This photograph of the nomadic Inuit family symbolizes the austerity of the arctic, a landscape familiar to me having grown up on the prairie where I learned the visual rules of the camera.  To Travel with an indigenous tribe, hunting the old way on that barren and prairie-like landscape, was a dream come true.
I never returned to the University to finish the degree; my photographic career took over my life.  But, sometimes, rewards come late.  Having traded a more formal kind of education for this "in the field" type, I often wondered if I had made the correct decision.  I recently received an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Minnesota.  I often talk about circles in life, and I see them often come to pass.  This was one of the most rewarding of my career.


Girl on top left is approximately 50 now. The woman on the top right performed a "mercy killing" (euthanasia) on her husband shortly before this picture was made, he was not able to keep up in this harsh environment. Mercy killings were a common practice in the old days of the Inuit.

Jim Brandenburg filming the Inuit, 1970.

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