How Photographer Chris Burkard Captured the Beauty of Greenland

Greenland
 Photograph by Chris Burkard

Five days into a voyage spanning hundreds of miles, photographer Chris Burkard captured passenger Steven Tonkinson diving into the arctic waters of eastern Greenland last September. Burkard cruised from Kulusuk, in the southeast part of the country, through icy waters on a Danish sailboat, photographing glacial remnants and rugged, wind-eroded landscapes. Erratic weather patterns forced the crew to adapt to changing surroundings.

“A lot can go wrong,” says Burkard, “and you never know what will happen above deck.” On a day with clearer conditions, while in the Sermilik Fjord, one of the largest in Greenland, Tonkinson volunteered to take the plunge from a nearby glacier and experience the freezing temperatures unprotected. “The water will stop your heart for a second,” says Burkard.

From the boat, using a Sony a7R II camera, he captured the diver during his leap into the cold unknown. Tonkinson lasted just a few moments before heading back to the vessel.

Burkard embarked on the expedition to document the overlooked area and its few-and-far-between inhabitants. “It’s full of ghost towns. The people who remain survive on whale and seal and have a resilience that should be revered.” He maintains that photographing Greenland is the highlight of his decade-long career. “It’s a fragile place,” he says. “And it allowed me to tell a story that hadn’t been told.”