Greenlandic Moments

Another Greenland. Most photographs from Greenland are showing the nature, icebergs, dog sledges etc. Seldom you see photos of the habitants and their lifes. In 1972, Per Kirkeby and Aqqaluk Lynge as directors, Peter Sakse as sound engineer and myself as cinematographer shot the documentary feature film “When the Authorities Said Stop”, about the closure of a whole city Qullissat, where we follow the Mathiesen family’s last time in the city and the family’s journey to their new town, Pamiut in South Greenland. The film is the first Greenlandic film and an important document in recent Greenlandic history.

The closure of Qullissat is one of the dark chapters in Greenland’s history, which the population has difficulty forgetting and forgiving. The city, which was once one of Greenland’s largest cities, is located on the northeast side of the island of Qeqertarsuag. The town arose in 1924 when the Danish state decided to build a coal mine that could supply Greenland with its own coal. After the Second World War it began to be considered unprofitable and in 1968 the Danish Parliament and Greenland’s National Council decided to close down the mine. In 1972, the mine and thus the town was finally closed, and the part of the population that had not moved voluntarily was forcibly relocated to other Greenlandic towns. This largest forced relocation of an urban community in Greenland’s history took place between 1970 and 1972 after many years of preparations. Folk life, family life, worker life, hunter life and other human relationships were pulled up by their roots, as a result of the closure of the coal mine could no longer keep the local community running. Family, friends and work colleagues were separated as they were forced to move to other cities and places of residence. The depopulation of Qullissat is an event which at the time was considered by many to be inevitable. The majority of the local population did not accept the closure but were forced to leave the city. Accepting the forced eviction was a difficult process for most of the residents and many have never really accepted the forced flight.

At the same time I shot a lot of still photographs, which now have been published in a book with text by Aqqaluk Lynge in both danish and greenlandic and an exhibition I have shown in 5 greenlandic cities and latest in The North Atlantic House, cultural center for Greenland, Iceland and The Faroe Islands in Copenhagen. My photographs are showing daily life as it was at that time, which is rare. I used my Pentax Spotmatic with 3 Takumar lenses, 35, 50 and 85 mm and Tri-X films developed in Promicrol. A few are shot on Kodachrome 64 and converted to B/ W. Scannings are done on my CanoScan FS-4000.

My website –
My books available here –

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About The Author

23 thoughts on “Greenlandic Moments”

  1. Fantastic work, dear Teit. The doll in the handbag made my day!
    (I am working on a story about AI in Photography for a german magazine just now)

    Best from Lübeck!

      1. I couldn’t agree more, these photographs are documents of history.
        For the photograph with the the doll in the bag – this just underscores the incredible amount of sadness I see in the men’s faces.
        Congratulations, Teit!

  2. Very interesting read and the accompanying images are just marvellous. This highlights the true value of photography as a tool for recording what we may lose. Great article, thank you.

  3. These are great. So many photographers are reluctant to take “people pictures” but inevitably these are the shots that become more valuable over time

  4. Classic photojournalism at its finest. Some feel of street photography but without the street…and on an island. Your ability to be the ‘fly-on-the-wall’ and capture the moment is superb.
    Thanks for sharing.

  5. Great photos! They will still be important when all those landscapes are long forgotten (we´re working on that…).
    Thanks for sharing.

  6. Peter Roberts

    Haunting old school documentary photography, Teit.
    The tragic story of a community being treated not as human beings but a commodity to be moved at will. In that respect it reminds me of Chris Killip’s work, his sea coal series in particular.
    Thanks so much for posting, I’ll be remembering these images for a long time.

  7. Teit, this is the real heart and “FORCE” of photography! To be able to remember those people, places and moments dear to us. The everyday moments like these that virtually everyone walks past without a second thought. Special moments that would otherwise be lost forever in the vast ocean of time except you chose to document them. Would love to see some of the Kodachromes as shot. Having grown up in the 1960’s and early 70’s these images evoke many memories and allow me to see through the eyes of another located far from my own world yet in many ways still so close. Work that holds up to more than a quick glance and demands repeated visits to view again. I believe strongly in documentary work like yours. Thanks for sharing this story and set of images. Any chance your book will be translated in the future? Value is rarely monetary but this work is priceless.

  8. Such a horrible thing to do to a community. Similar things have happened all over the world and it’s usually not a good outcome in the long run. I love your sensitive images. I also want to let you know your website doesn’t work. All you get is the image of the guy walking across the road. No menu’s etc.


  9. Fantastic photos. Fantastic/sad story. Same happened to the inhabitants of St. Kilda. Two sad tales, indeed…

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