Trees and People of the
Northern Forest (Lannoo, 2020)
The Borealis project is supported by the Anchorage Museum’s Polar Lab program. For Borealis, photographer Jeroen Toirkens and journalist Jelle Brandt Corstius visited boreal forests around the Circumpolar North, ending in Alaska in 2019. They sought the stories and people of the forests, focusing on the boreal zone in the Northern Hemisphere, a chiefly coniferous circle that extends across Europe, Asia and North America. This forest is also known as the taiga. The boreal forest is the largest vegetation zone (biome) on earth and makes up around 29% of the total forested area. It is considerably larger than the Amazon rainforest. The trees of the forests convert carbon dioxide into oxygen on a massive scale. The average tree produces enough oxygen over a hundred-year period to allow a human being to breathe for 20 years. This project works to reveal these forests for people around the world.
An exhibition, Borealis: Life in the Woods, has been organized by the The Hague Museum of Photography (Fotomuseum Den Haag) in the Netherlands and the Anchorage Museum. It opens in both locations in 2021 and then travel to subsequent venues. The project is also accompanied by a publication to be released in 2020.
Text: Jelle Brandt Corstius
Photographs: Jeroen Toirkens
From 2015 up to 2019, I have made eight trips with photographer Jeroen Toirkens to the world’s northernmost forests. We took in our surroundings carefully and listened attentively to the people who inhabit these inhospitable regions. How do they live and survive? What do they take from the earth, and what do they give back to her? Our final destination was a remote cabin in the wilds of Alaska. This time we were on our own. And here we looked back on our peregrinations through the world’s largest — yet little-known — forest: the Boreal Forest.