• Clarke Wallace


I was taking aim at the Globe and Mail’s Saturday edition 7 March, 2020 – I’m habitually a week behind – when I stumbled on a separate section: THE FROZEN FRONT LINE. I also noticed an item in another place how this special section on the Far North came about.

It told how photojournalist Louie Palu had traveled there over five year capturing 150,000 photographs of the Arctic. He was supported by grants from the Guggenheim Foundation and the Pulitzer Center among others.

The Globe’s section on Palu’s work showed a dozen photos, several spread across both sides of a centerfold.

One of the most spectacular was taken in January ‘when the sun never rises above the horizon, the 24-hour of mostly darkness’. Soldiers from Canada along with French and British troops spent a week with the temperature hovering below -50 degrees C.

They stayed in snow caves which kept them away from an ice-cold wind. And where a single candle provided enough heat to keep the occupants warm.

The technical challenges faced by the photojournalist? Taking photos at -60 degrees C. where frostbite can sets in within two minutes. I also read, ‘lose a glove and lose a hand’.

One of Palu’s cameras was broken beyond repair. He lost three lenses because of the cold and condensation.

It took him several years to set up a U.S. nuclear submarine having broken through the ice in the Beaufort sea. Yet another of 50 US paratroopers dropping down on a training area with Palu directly in the landing zone. To get the photo in a single image he had only a split second to capture it and get the heck out of the way.

Louie Palu takes a very practical approach to his work. These photos, he tells us,“I’m thinking, ‘My God, it’s -40 C, my camera’s not working. My eyelashes just froze to the camera finder. But I got here, so I better make a good picture.”

Author’s comment: These photos, a dozen (13?) among the thousands he took in the Arctic are so dramatically beautiful. I’d like to see more of them myself, though I’d have to ponder over how to go about it. Yet the ones in the Globe truly satisfy me. For the moment.

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