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A year in Greenland: RIT professor explores the island and its people

Feb 13, 2020

Credit Denis Defibaugh and RIT Press

Several years ago, Rochester Institute of Technology photography professor Denis Defibaugh stumbled upon 85-year-old lantern slides that captured the vast landscapes of Greenland.

The slides, which are transparent photographic images mounted on a glass plate and viewed via a projector, were created by Rockwell Kent.  In the 1930s, Kent spent years on the island nestled between the North Atlantic and Arctic oceans.

The photographer, artist, and illustrator was probably best known for illustrating Herman Melville's classic, "Moby Dick." But it was Kent's voyage to Greenland that seized Defibaugh's imagination.

Inspired by what he saw, Defibaugh set out on his own journey in 2016 and lived on the island for a year. With the help of a native Greenlander who served as a language and cultural interpreter, Defibaugh slowly earned the trust of people living in four different communities from the capital, Nuuk, on the western coast, to Illorsuit, 300 miles north of the Arctic Circle.

Credit Denis Defibaugh and RIT Press

Funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation, Defibaugh took images of the stark landscape, the people, their sled dogs, and more, to contrast and compare today's Greenland to the Greenland that Kent explored 85 years earlier.

RIT Press has published "North by Nuuk: Greenland after Rockwell Kent," a book documenting Defibaugh's project.

Click on the LISTEN link above to hear Defibaugh talk about the adventure.