by Milo Sumner in New Photography on Friday 25 July 2014

The Inuit people of Northern Greenland have a myth that partly explains their theory of creation, and it goes something likes this: ‘In the beginning giants lived on the land and ate plants that they gathered. One day, when it was almost winter, a mother giant and a father giant had a baby girl. Her name was Sedna.

As the days got shorter, Sedna got bigger and bigger. Soon she was so huge that there wasn’t enough food for her anywhere. She got so hungry that she started to bite her mother and father’s legs. Her parents could no longer bear it so they smuggled Sedna into a blanket and carried her to their canoe. It was dark but there was a moon to see by and they paddled the canoe out to sea. When they got way out in the middle of the ocean they dumped Sedna overboard into the cold water, left her to drown and started to paddle their canoe home feeling cold and ashamed of themselves for drowning their own daughter.

But they had just started paddling when the canoe stopped. No matter how hard they paddled they couldn’t move. They looked over the canoe and saw that Sedna’s huge hands were holding their canoe. She was going to toss them into the ocean and they would drown. So Sedna’s mother and father started to chop at Sedna’s fingers with their sharp stone knives and they cut off her fingers, one by one. But as Sedna’s big fingers splashed into the water, they changed into animals. One finger became a whale. One finger became a seal. One finger became a walrus. One became a salmon.

Sedna swam to the bottom of the ocean and stayed there. She became Mother of the Sea and came to rule over Adlivun, the Inuit underworld. The fish built her a tent there to live in. She still lives there, and if you are hungry, you can ask Sedna to send you more food, even in the winter.’

It was this story that originally inspired Finnish photographer Tiina Itkonen to travel to Greenland and experience that ancient culture of the Polar Eskimoes, a culture that has endured in the harsh and majestic conditions there for millennia. she visited countless times over twenty years, often staying for months. The result is a spectacular photographic series that reveals hidden aspects of Inuit life, from intimate portraits to stark contrasts of modern western influences against the bleak environment.

Ultimately Itkonen highlights the tenuous nature of the Inuit’s existence, caught in a trap where the slightest environmental change will cause everything they know to alter drastically and irreparably.

Via Mutant Space