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Keepers of the Ocean, Inuuteq Storch's Photobook On Life In Greenland
Published28 Jul 2022
In her key article on Greenlandic photobooks, Blasting the Language of Colonialism: Three Contemporary Photo-Books on Greenland, Mette Sandbye describes how Greenland had been photographically defined by a European fixation with seals, harpoons, and furs. She describes how contemporary photographers such as Pia Arke, Jacob Aue Sobol, and Julie Edel Hardenberg have moved beyond exoticising ethnographic representations of Greenland and its people.
To that list, you can add Innuuteq Storch and Keepers of the Ocean. It’s a soulful book where the comforts of the home loom large, where the extremities of the landscape come up against the decoration of the interior, where different generations share their love for each other, where faces are mischievous, dreamy, questioning, and predatory.
The book starts with a picture of a window, a girl eating food, and a sun low in the sky. The key scenes are set. We see homes busy with collected ornaments, young bodies embracing on beds, and old bodies embracing on sofa. There is food and drink, there are cats and dogs, there are paintings and photographs.
Move outside and we see the town of Sisimiut, a picturesque town of wooden dwellings set against hills that are covered by deep snow in winter. Storch photographs with flash, show shutter speeds blurring the falling snow and adding a psychedelic edge to the landscape. It’s there in Winter and it’s there in the summer when the snow melts and we see water plants growing in a pond.
There are dark nights when the snow piles high against the sidings of the houses, and summer evenings (or mornings) when the sun rests on the edges of the horizon, the rocky landscape warmed by the softest of summer touches.
Most of all though, this is a book about the family and friends Storch thanks in his dedication. Images of an old lady in front of a Greenlandic flag, and walls covered in collages of family photographs point to the family history of the town. There are intimations of domesticity, clothes hung up to dry in the summer light, cooking utensils lined up on walls, and house plants growing in a Greenlandic interior.
Then there are young people, on the lookout for excitement, knowledge and love. One girl stands with her hands above her head, her face alive with intent as she is frozen in a moment of dance. Another girl standing in front of a yellow car filled with four young men. She stands straight as two of the men smoke cigarettes and eye her up. We see parents in bed, a young woman naked in bed, a boy with a camera and feathers in his hair, and all the way through there are eyes that are alive with the whole gamut of emotions.
Despite being in colour, the influences of Jacob Aue Sobol’s Sabine are evident (and Sobol has another excellent book based on his time in Greenland out later in the year), and so, strangely enough, are those of Richard Billingham’s Ray’s a Laugh; the proliferation of household goods, the people lying down on the bathroom floor, and the massive (completed) jigsaw of African wildlife all share the chaos of that work.
In her article, Mette Sandbye writes about Homo Sapience, an acclaimed novel by the Greenlandic author Niviaq Korneliussen. She describes how it is not so much about Greenland but is about the ‘young in general’ and their ‘…struggles with love affairs, friendship, and other social relationships.
That is very much the territory of Keepers of the Ocean. It invites you to imagine what it is to live in a place like Sisimiut in both the good times and the bad, with the landscape, the climate, and the possibilities of the community your companions.
All photos © Inuuteq Storch
Keepers of the Ocean
Published by Disko Bay
Screen printed OTA-bind with flap
21,5 × 28 cm
111 colour plates
Preface by Martin Brandt Hansen
Language: Greenlandic, Danish and English
Edition of 666
Buy the book here
Inuuteq Storch Storch (b. 1989) lives and works in Greenland. He is a graduate of the International Center of Photography in New York and of Fatamorgana school of photography in Copenhagen. Inuuteqs work is wide in genres but the content has common in being about the identity of coming from Greenland. He has exhibited in Greenland, Denmark, The United States, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, Canada and Colombia. Inuuteq published the photobooks Porcelain Souls (2018, Konnotation), Flesh (2019, Disko Bay) and John Møller – Mirrored, Portraits of Good Hope (2021, Roulette Russe), Keepers of the Ocean (2022, Disko Bay).
Colin Pantall is a photographer, writer and lecturer based in Bath, England. His book, All Quiet on the Home Front, focuses on family, fatherhood and the landscape. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.