An epic journey to share the NORTH of Words

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A wall of blue/white ice is the backdrop to swimming gulls.

We show the world that the North Pole is closer than it seems. It is not just a point on the map, but a reality.”

If someone asked you to tell them five things about the North Pole, could you? Would they consist of more than snow and polar bears? Do you know your distance from the Arctic Circle? If not, then do look it up – you might be surprised.

Romanian photographer, Rareș Beșliu, wants us all to feel closer to the North Pole and the territories which surround it. And to do this, he has taken four expeditions to the places which surround ‘the top of the world’ since July 2023. He lets us use his eyes and shows us how life is lived in the snow and ice, and the hundreds of small ways that the people closest to the North Pole act to protect it. Rareș seeks to share the very real effects of climate change on the lives and homes of the people who live there and bring people closer to nature. So, each journey is a learning experience – and while his Canon camera documents the landscape and its animals, Canon Romania is also with him every step of the way, supporting his mission to educate as many people as possible and bring them closer to nature through photography.

Called La NORD de cuvinte (NORTH of Words), this project will take Rareș three years to complete. And during this time he will take in at least two polar seasons, documenting wildlife on both boat and land. His travels began in Norway, in Svalbard, an archipelago which sits between mainland Norway and the North Pole. It’s an extraordinary region and one of the world’s northernmost inhabited areas. His visit there was during the Polar Summer – the time of the famous ‘Midnight Sun’ – and Rareș was able to experience far more species of animals than would be available to his camera in the long winter. Seals, walruses and polar bears, as well as his first images of glaciers and icebergs.

The tails of two whales as they disappear into the water. Behind them is a grey sky and white glaciers.

The polar summer gave Rareș the opportunity to see incredible animals first hand.

In subsequent months, he visited Greenland, Iceland and the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, each time adding a new layer to his experiences. In Greenland he met with Tuperna Davidsen, who was born and raised there, and who was happy to not only act as his guide, but to talk about her life and experiences in the changing region for Rareș’ blog. In Iceland, he stood on land that only a year previously was covered by glaciers – a dramatic and moving moment. And in the Canadian Arctic, the polar bear capital of the world, he saw more effects of climate change, as the bear population decreases through a shortening of the seasonal ice, which is necessary to allow them to hunt and survive.

With the support of Canon Romania, his images have already travelled widely, through shared social media, his book (entitled Emotions), and exhibitions in Reykjavik, at Bucharest Photofest, Gamle Raadhus Scene in Oslo and the Romanian Embassy in Norway. His travels have also been covered widely in the media with Rareș appearing regularly on Romanian television and various podcasts. Through all this publicity, he has also been able to discuss the project’s wider aspect – the establishment of the La NORD de cuvinte Association in Romania, which educates on the effects of climate change and the regular positive actions we can all take.

"The power of photography to put topics like climate change on the public agenda is huge,” says Petronius Secăreanu, Director at Canon Romania. “And Rareș's approach to photographing nature and arctic wildlife, with the aim of making us all more aware and mindful of the impact we have on the environment, is both brave and poignant. We are so happy to be supporting La NORD de cuvinte.”

This educational work takes the form of a photography school, which introduces a love of the environment to existing photographers, as well as nurturing the same passion in young people from disadvantaged backgrounds by introducing them to the camera. There are also plans to build wildlife ‘hides’ for the local community to bring them closer to nature, hold educational talks at schools and found an annual ‘Sustainability Day’ for the whole country.

Tuperna Davidsen (left) in a red winter jacket, sits next to Rareș Beșliu, who wears a similar blue jacket. They are on the edge of a boat, looking beyond the camera at something unknown in the distance. Behind them is a huge white glacier.

Rareș’ with Tuperna Davidsen on an expedition in Greenland.

As well as his social media presence, Rareș also keeps a diary of his travels on his website, underpinning his desire to bring as much positivity to the project as possible. “The project does not present the tragic but shows the world the arctic white in an optimistic note, full of emotion and hope,” he explains. “We thank people for taking care of the planet and living things and encourage them to continue the small actions they do here, but that have a global impact.”

From this March, he will resume his travels, heading once again to Svalbard – this time to experience the ‘sunny winter’. A return to Greenland and Canada is planned from August 2024 onwards, where he will be adding to his huge portfolio of inspiring arctic images. The final goal of the La NORD de cuvinte Association is to take these images on tour, sharing them with as wide an audience as possible and continuing to add his voice to the global conversation on climate change.

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