Shishmaref is eroding because of the disappearance of the protective screen of sea ice, blamed on climate change, meaning the tiny native island community have to move. The elders fear that a proposed move to Nome will end their traditional Inupiat lifestyle, but a proposed alternative site may be too expensive.
Alaska - Photo Tip

How spending more time with people will make you a better photographer

Photo by Gilles Mingasson

Alaska - Photo Tip How spending more time with people will make you a better photographer

I traveled twice to Shishmaref, a really remote island off the coast of Alaska, both times in June to record the effects of climate change.

Gilles Mingasson
Gilles Mingasson

June is normally the time of year when the 500 inhabitants of Shishmaref hunt for seals and caribou. They used to do this on ice but the ice has now melted, so they have to use boats. Because they have TV and internet, the kids know what is out there and no one knows if they want to stay or not. There is a lot of boredom, especially in June when the sun does not set.

These kids are jumping on the ice at 1.30am. The secret of documentary photography is simple: put the time in. You have to spend enough time so that people get used to your presence. Do not take the camera out right away. Give yourself the luxury of being able to wait a bit. People have to trust you, to know you are respectful of them. After a while, they will forget you are there. You are not invisible, of course, but you get to a stage when people glance at you once in a while but are not really aware of you. That is when you can do really good work.

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