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Sami: The People Who Walk With Reindeer / Erika Larsen

January 2012


Exhibit opening, screening, & talk

Tuesday January 24, 2012, 7:30 PM
Moderated by Sarah Leen, senior photo editor at National Geographic

I created this story between 2007 and 2011 in order to understand the primal drive of the modern hunter, and to find a people who, when the land spoke, could interpret its language. The Sámi (“the People”) are by tradition reindeer herders who live as nomads. Indigenous to the Arctic Circle of northern Scandinavia, their livelihood depends acutely on their surroundings. I started by working for a Sámi family as a beaga—a housekeeper. Understanding the culture took daily effort through work, learning North Sámi language, and listening. The Sámi live in two worlds: in one a people with a rich connection to the past are driven by the need to survive and are enveloped in a relationship with the earth. In the second world, a group of people solidly inhabit the present. Their culture is aware of global connectivity and modern technology. My photographs explore all this: the Sámi’s symbiotic relationship with the environment and today’s world, and the mystery and beauty that fueled past generations to survive into our modern world. As biodiversity, forest stability, abundance of water, and wildlife management become globally vital, the Sámi community will be vital to understanding sustainability in the Arctic region.


ERIKA LARSEN (b. 1976) has worked as a magazine photographer since 2000. A Fulbright scholar, her photography has been included in the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery and FOTFEST 2010 BIENNIAL, among other places. Her work looks intimately at cultures that maintain a strong connection to the natural world. This is the first U.S. exhibit of her Sámi work.


All photos © Erika Larsen.

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