Erika Larsen

The simple fact is that Erika Larsen cannot take a bad photograph.  Her entire site is one stunning and compelling image after another, and well worth a visit. The clarity and beauty that she brings to her images comes from knowing her subjects, spending time in their worlds, and capturing the essence of a culture in a series of well crafted and soulful photographs.  The work featured today is from Erika’s project, Sámi ,The People Who Walk With Reindeer.  Erika spent 4 years living within this culture to create the work — there were no family ties, just a curiosity and need to understand the Sámi.

Erika’s uses photography, video and writing to learn intimately about
cultures that maintain strong connections with nature. She began working
professionally as a magazine photographer in 2000 specializing in
human-interest stories and sensitive cultural issues. Her images have been
published and exhibited internationally. Her work has been included in the
Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, National Geographic Society, The Swedish
Museum of Ethnography and Ajtte Sámi Museum. Larsen is a recipient of several
grants and fellowships including a Fulbright Fellowship, New Jersey State Arts
Council Fellowship, Women in Photography Individual Project Grant and the Lois
Roth Endowment. Erika received a BFA and MFA from Rochester Institute of

Erika has created a crowd funding campaign for a book of Sámi ,The People Who Walk With Reindeer through Empas.Is and of you are interested in contributing, you can do so here.

Erika has two upcoming exhibitions of this work, at and Visa Pour L’Image International Festival of Photography in Sweden in September, and the Catherine Edleman Gallery in Chicago in 2013 

Sámi,The People Who Walk With Reindeer
came on a search to understand the primal drive of the modern hunter by taking
an inclusive look at an original hunter-gatherer, nomadic society.

I came to find people who could interpret the language of the land 
when it speaks.

I came in search of silence so that I could begin to hear again.

Every day in the Arctic extremes play upon the lives of the Sámi, an indigenous group native to the Arctic Circle of northern Scandinavia  and Russia–the largest area in the world with an ancestral way of life based on the seasonal migrations of the animals The Sámi are by tradition reindeer herders who have lived as nomads. Today only 10 percent of the Sámi population still works in reindeer husbandry, a business that is regulated by the European Union. By possessing a livelihood dependent on their surroundings, the herders must be acutely aware of changes in nature and more specifically the arctic landscape.

My photographs explore the Sámi herder’s symbiotic relationship with the environment, their existence in today’s world and their ancestral roots.This work was created in Kautokeino, Norway and Gallivare, Sweden where I worked as a beaga, or housekeeper, for a family of Sámi reindeer herders. I chose to immerse myself in this manner so that I could better understand what I was seeing and experiencing when creating the images. The actual image making process was intuitive but the process for understanding the culture required full immersion, through work, learning North Sámi language and listening.

The spoken Sami language, despite being derived from Finno- Uralic roots, has transformed over time and is considered an Arctic language rich in its ability to explain the natural world.

While the reindeer herding Sami remain largely insulated from urban life, they straddle two worlds – tied to their historical roots while acknowledging modern realities. They maintain a deep connection with nature and remain a semi- nomadic people, with little need for the world beyond the arctic landscape.  Yet the Sami are acutely aware of and embrace global connectedness, modern technology and popular culture.

Living with the Sami, I have observed nature being at once both beautiful and brutal. Through their lives, I hope to better understand our role as stewards of the earth and recognize the cycles of life and death and the role of people within this circle.

The Sami have managed to survive in extreme climatic circumstances for ages. As biodiversity, forest stability, water supplies and wildlife management become increasingly important global concerns, this community will be vital to understanding sustainability in the Arctic region.