Fotomonday: Svalbard, An Arcticficial Life – by Julia de Cooker

With “Fotomonday“, each week we showcase the work of women photographers from around the world.


Man has always exploited resources, even in the harshest environments.



Svalbard archipelago can be considered one of them. This land was discovered in 1596 by the Dutch seafarer Willem Barentsz, but nobody lived there until 1901, when the mining town of Longyear City was built. The Paris Treaty of 1920 recognizes Norway’s sovereignty over the islands. However, all signatories obtained equal rights. Ar that moment, the town was bought by the Norwegians and renamed Longyearbyen.



In the last decades Longyearbyen has evolved. It once was nothing more than a mining town, a place to live in particularly rough conditions. It has gradually become a modern and attractive place to stay. In the late 1980’s, the state of Norway changed the status of the town by taking over the control from the mining company. With this decision, the citizens of Longyearbyen saw their quality of life improve. Today, the city welcomes thousands of tourists every year and about two thousand people from more than forty countries live in the city. They take advantage of the special status of Svalbard, which allows them to live there without visas or working permits. A new thriving way of life has emerged, although human presence remains unexpected in this barren land. The polar landscapes evoke an impressive sense of strength. In contrast to these surroundings, modernity is astonishing. The society almost feels unreal. No indigenous community has ever lived in Svalbard, making it one of a very few places on Earth totally exempt from traditions from the past. Strangeness appears through different sorts of details. The combination of elements that have nothing to do with each other, or with the natural environment, is gripping.

This series is the reflection of this strange normality.




Julia de Cooker (b. 1988 in Paris) is a French/Dutch photographer. She has graduated from Communication/Photography at ECA, Lausanne in 2012. Her first book “Svalbard, an arcticficial life” has been published in 2017 by Kehrer Verlag. She lives and works in Paris. 

See more of her work