The End of Winter

PhotographerJune Rodrigo
PrizeHonorable Mention
Entry Description

The Sami indigenous people are reindeer herders who have lived and thrived in the Arctic for thousands of years. Today, climate change and modern technology are having large impacts in their lives and traditions. Climate change is causing the snow to harden, making it impossible for the reindeer to find food. Internet, cellphones and snowmobiles are now part of their daily lives. The younger generation tend to speak other languages instead of Sami. So there is the question whether their culture and language will survive. In these photos I portray the Sami as they are today, impacted in many details by modern culture, and yet trying to preserve their traditions. I call it the End of Winter because, that is the time these pictures were taken. But also with climate change the end of winter may be coming, and their culture, so based on winter, may also be approaching its end.

Story

The Sami indigenous people of northern Scandinavia are reindeer herders who have lived and thrived in the Arctic for thousands of years. Today, climate change and modern technology are having large impacts on their lives and traditions. Climate change has led to a melt/freeze cycle that hardens the snow, making it impossible for the reindeer to paw through the snow to find the lichens they eat during the winter. Internet, cell phones and snowmobiles are now part of their daily lives. The younger generation tend to speak Norwegian and English instead of Sami. So there is the question whether their culture and language will survive. I went to the northernmost part of Norway to live with Sami families at the end of winter, just prior to the spring migration. The pictures focused around their daily lives, at home and with the reindeer that are central in their lives. The food they eat is largely reindeer based. Many of the clothes and shoes they wear are handmade from reindeer skin. Sami families are also very close. If there is a problem, there is a phone call to family members who usually live nearby and immediately come over to help. Almost everything in their homes is built by their own hands. So despite the influences of modern technology, their lives remain close to the Earth and nature, centered on family. In these photos I portray the Sami as they are today, impacted in many details by modern culture, and yet trying to preserve their language and traditions. I call it the End of Winter because on the one hand, that is the time of year these pictures were taken. And with climate change the end of winter may be coming, and their culture, so based on winter, may also be approaching its end.