Over the course of four years, the photographer Louie Palu made more than 150,000 photos in the high Arctic, first supported by a Guggenheim Fellowship then followed by an assignment for National Geographic Magazine. The project, which came to be called “Arctic Passage,” considered the history of the Arctic and the changing geopolitics of the polar region in the face of climate change. As we stare down the very real possibility of a “blue Arctic”—one in which polar ice and snow melts to become traversable waterways—nations compete for influence as well as for real and imagined natural resources, and northern peoples living in a territory defined by ice must find new ways to cope with their changing landscape.
In March of 2019, Palu created an installation as part of the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival in Texas in which some of the Arctic photographs that appear here were encased in massive blocks of ice that were then placed outdoors so that the ice would gradually melt, exposing the images. The work was then edited into an exhibition at the McMichael Gallery in Kleinburg, Ontario, and was shown during the 2019 CONTACT Photography Festival alongside a feature exhibition by artist Itee Pootoogook. Palu is currently working on a book of this work titled Distant Early Warning. This work was selected for the 2019 Arnold Newman Prize For New Directions In Portraiture.