Photobook of Arctic  
 
27 October 2017
Dedicated to my loving wife, Lila



In the vast landscape that is the Arctic, Günther Komnick somehow manages to capture an intimacy; he does not show the Arctic, he shares it with the viewers, enticing us into a state of wonderment. This is all the more poignant because we know the demise of the ice caps in the Arctic threatens not only the wildlife that inhabits this apparent wilderness, but threatens the survival of human civilisation itself.
    Who knows what will be left of Komnick’s Arctic landscape in a few years’ time? As if to make the point more cogently, the pages are festooned with the limited flora and seemingly abundant fauna of the area. We see multiple images of ubiquitous puffins, gulls of every description, grandfatherly walruses and agile seals, and of course the very vulnerable polar bears, who are struggling to maintain themselves as the ice literally disappears from underneath them.
    The area was in part occupied by German troops during World War II. Today, the Svalbard archipelago including the main island Spitzbergen are Norwegian territories. Komnick has included images of the people living in the coal-mining town of Barentsburg, which is maintained by Russia in terms of the 1920 Svalbard Treaty.  Also seen are images of abandoned human activity, including unsuccessful marble mining, in years gone by.
    Throughout these pages, Komnick reminds us that this endangered wonderland is not our domain, but the home of species who over millennia have adapted to this environment. Humanity has been disrespectful, drilling for oil, hunting whales and Arctic foxes, and fishing on an industrial scale that deprives the creatures of the oceans of their means of sustenance.
    All the images contained in this testament to the Arctic are much-needed reminders of the attitude of stewardship that humankind needs to adopt, not only for the sake of these beleaguered species, but also for humanity’s own sake.
Wilhelm Snyman, Cape Town, 2017