Catherine Lemblé Explores the Arctic to Highlight the Contradictions Between Land, History and Women

Belgian artist embarks on a journey that aims at challenging a biassed idea of history, outdated gender assumptions and rigid climates. 
Empowering portraits and frozen landscapes show us that also inhospitable regions are a place for brave women.

The Arctic was never considered a place for women. Throughout history, women have been deemed unfit to deal with the challenges that come with an isolated life in the wilderness. Non-indigenous people to the Arctic have long conceptualised the polar region as a barren, inhospitable landscape where only the toughest of men could survive. Built into this affirmation of the adventurous and engineering nature of men is the systematic refusal of women into the arctic world. 

At the same time the Arctic has traditionally been gendered as feminine in the Western world. Initially, it was regarded a region to be conquered and penetrated. Whereas this view has shifted in post-colonial times, the Arctic is still conceived of as feminine and is now collectively imagined as a pure, pristine place in need of our protection. A barren, virgin land in distress. By imposing on it an identity as an object of desire, this one-sided and simplified view is not aligned with reality. 

The project Only Barely Still aims to propose a different narrative of the Arctic and its collective imaginary. By standing on the axis of two misconceptions – about the Arctic and the women in it – it wants to respectfully capture their synergy.

Words and pictures by Catherine Lemblé 

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Catherine Lemblé (b.1990) is a Belgian photographer based in Brussels. She received her MA in photography from Luca School of Arts Brussels. Her work is framed by the ever-changing relationship between man and the natural world. Her first book Cabin Fever was self-published in 2019. Follow her on Instagram and PhMuseum.   

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This feature is part of Story of the Week, a selection of relevant projects from our community handpicked by the PhMuseum curators.