North by Nuuk - Greenland after Rockwell Kent


Artist Link: Denis Defibaugh

Denis Defibaugh (b. 1955) lived and photographed in four communities in Greenland from April 2016 to July 2017: Nuuk the capital and largest city of 17,000, Sisimiut, Uummannaq and Illorsuit a settlement of 70 people of no cars or roads. The work produced is an intimate portrait of Greenland - beginning with exploration of the vast primal landscape, delving deeper into the social landscape and reaching the heart of the life in Greenland through intimate portraits of its people. This is the process of knowing Greenland. First experiencing the overwhelming landscape and then seeing the Inuit peoples place in that environment, and finally the acceptance by and interaction with the Greenlanders.

North by Nuuk, Greenland after Rockwell Kent connects photographer Denis Defibaugh and painter Rockwell Kent. Separated by nearly a century, they live and create in Greenland for nearly identical reasons: a magnetic fascination with the island, its people, and their shared histories. Defibaugh was drawn to Greenland because of its unrelenting and challenging winter weather, and inspired by Kent’s goal “to experience the Far North at its spectacular worst”.

The island nation’s political and civic organizations, its peoples’ work and play habits, unsurprisingly morph over time. Ever constant is Greenland’s sublime and sometimes unforgiving environment that has shaped and occasionally been shaped by its inhabitants. Through Defibaugh’s photography, human settlements and their responses to modernization, climate change, social change and continuity is explored based on cooperation, collaboration, and exchange with indigenous communities that have shared their local knowledge, memory and identity.

“My helicopter lifted off, whipped around Uummannaq Island, and headed north as we entered into the widest stretch of the Uummannaq Fjord. The stark white contrast of the massive sculpted icebergs spotted the deep cobalt blue of the fjord as small whitecaps created dimension within the rolling seawater’s surface. The mountainous snowcapped range of Greenland’s mainland could be seen to the east along with the seemingly infinite Greenland icecap, and to the west the southern tip of Ubekendt Ejland. As we sweep around the headlands into Illorsuit on the northeast end of the island, the broad sweeping mile-long horseshoe shaped black sand beach of Illorsuit came into view. After seven days of travel I was finally at my destination 300 miles north of the Arctic Circle” - Denis Defibaugh, June 1, 2016.


RIT Press publication


Mathias Nielsen on an 8 hour day of fishing for halibut and catching over a ton of fish. Illorsuit Sound 2016
Image of a man sited at a table with hands crossed on table top.

Amos Egede a radio personality and comedian at home. Nuuk 2017

Two men wearing hats riding a sledge in a snow laden winterscape with a team of dogs in the distance.

Pujunnguaq Hammond and David Nielsen dog sledging to their fishing holes. Uummannaq Fjord 2017

Woman wearing full seal skin suit holding a long spear while standing in winter landscape

Sara Lyberth in her favorite seal skins. Illorsuit 2017

Five dead ducks lined up on on red, white, and blue cardboard box.

Fresh killed ducks for sale. Sisimiut 2016

Man standing at ocean's edge holding a single man kayak upright.

Kayak builder, Jorgen Leander, introduced Tyvek as an exceptional kayak skin material. Sisimiut 2017

Close up full front view of a woman's face with black hair and a serious expression

Ester Zeeb, midwife for Illorsuit. 2016

Elderly grey haired woman holding her hand with a crooked finger in front of her face.

Dorthe Simionsin shows her deformed finger caused by a life of sewing seal skins. Uummannaq 2016

Man wearing a full arctic winter suit while standing in snowy arctic landscape.

Photographer Denis Defibaugh in full winter suit in a snowy winter landscape.