Book Review: Life at the Edge by Carsten Egevang

Photography books are one of my greatest joys and passions and so it is with great enthusiasm I am reviewing Life at the Edge by Carsten Egevang. If you are unfamiliar with Carsten’s work I encourage you to run (not walk) to his website and spend some time pouring over his remarkable photography. A Danish photographer and a professional researcher with more than twenty years field experience in Greenland, Carsten clearly has Greenland and the Arctic in his heart. Carsten has been recognised in several international photo competitions, including category winner in the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year – the highest position a Dane has yet been awarded in this prestigious competition. He was also awarded the title of “Danish Nature Photographer” (2011) and was a recipient of the Greenland Government’s “Environment and Nature Prize” (2012). Carsten is also a member of the Arctic Arts team (of which I am also a member). He is a master documentary photographer and his book Life at the Edge is a wonderful documentary account of the fragility of life in Scoresby in the Arctic.

The inhabitants of Scoresby truly lives LIFE ON THE EDGE. The settlement represents the edge of where to find human habitation in the sparsely populated eastern Greenland. Nearest inhabited area are 800 km to the south and north of Scoresby the world’s largest national park is found. At the same time the inhabitants of the isolated Scoresby lives on the edge of livelihood. Supplies from the outside world to the city are extremely sparse, and traditional fishing shall form a larger role than most other places in Greenland.

Life at the Edge documents Carsten’s travels to Greenland with his camera to shoot wildlife and to document the traditional Inuit way of life as it unfolds in modern Greenland. Although Life at the Edge is a collection of black and white photographs only; it should be noted that Carsten also shoots colour and has released other books with colour images.forside-life-at-the-edge-carsten-egevang-thumb1Presentation – Hardbound on a soft and supple lustre paper  Life at the Edge  is a sizeable publication; consisting of more than 200 pages.  Presented in multiple languages (including English) I found the layout of Life at the Edge to be highly complimentary to the documentary style of photographs. Divided into chapters, or sections there is introductory text for each section and explanatory text and notes are further scattered throughout the book.  I found the introductory text really helped set the stage and greatly enhanced my appreciation for the photographs.

The choice of photograph for the cover is complimentary to the photographs inside and the entire book is a very well constructed package of excellent quality.

The majority of the photographs are framed by the white of the paper in Life at the Edge and this works exceptionally well to contain the imagery from page to page. Full bleed images are scattered throughout the book and these do help to break up the book. I particularly enjoyed the layout of this book and the use of small photographs on some of the pages to create a greater level of intimacy. In an era where big is often seen as better it is nice to see the use of small images employed to help draw the viewer into this mystical polar world. As I have written before, this technique is highly effective at viewer engagement and more photographers would do well to take notice. Presenting a 200+ page book of photographs that continually engages the viewer is extraordinarily difficult and most books of this size leave me tired well before I get to the last pages. The simple reality is that there are only so many photographs my brain can absorb in a single sitting before the images start to blend together. Like Vincent Munier’s Artique (reviewed HERELife at the Edge transcended this limitation for me and left me wanting more. That is an extraordinary accomplishment.

You can watch a short film about Life at the Edgby clicking on the image below:LifeattheEdgeFilmPrint Quality – Life at the Edge is the first photography book I have reviewed that comprises entirely black and white photography. Black and white photography books (perhaps even more so than colour books) live and die by the quality of the printing. If the blacks are washed out and muddy, or of the highlights are blown out, or tonality is lost then the impact of the images is greatly impacted. The photographs in Life at the Edgcould so easily have become poor muddy facsimiles of the originals if the printing were not delicately handled. The eye takes great pleasure in the subtle tonalities of superb black and white printing and I am very pleased to say that the print quality throughout Life at the Edge is really superb with really deep solid blacks, wonderful shadow detail, sublime tonalities and highlights and an excellent dynamic range.

Conclusion –Life at the Edge is a superb documentary collection of powerful photographs that tells the story of life in the Arctic. The choice of photographs work very well as a collective body of work and are very effective in documenting modern life in the Arctic.

I strongly recommend you consider adding Life at the Edge to your collection of photography books. If you have ever travelled to Greenland and experienced the Arctic then you will no doubt connect with Life at the Edge on a very deep level. If not, then Life at the Edge will give you new insight into this incredible part of the world.  Life at the Edge is a must have addition to your  photographic library and can be purchased online for 50 Euro plus shipping.. Highly recommended.

Overall Review –***** Must Own. No photography library is complete without this book.

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