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To create her photography exhibit, “Under the Same Stars,” Acacia Johnson headed to one of the most remote places on earth—the north shore of Baffin Island, in the Canadian province of Nunavut, opposite Greenland.
Using an old-school technique—a large-format camera and color film—Johnson spent four months capturing such quintessentially Arctic tableaux as a translucent igloo set against a nearly black sky; a distant parka-clad figure framed perfectly between the horizon line and a weak sun (or is it the moon?); and someone chasing the setting sun on an ice vehicle.
Indeed, during Johnson’s winter stay on Baffin Island, the sun rose above the horizon only infrequently. The brightest splotch of light in the exhibit emanates from a man-made dump fire, while the title of the image “Light of Noon” is particularly ironic, since the landscape it shows is barely lit at all.
Johnson’s most compelling images are those in which she directly engages her human subjects. In one, a pair of girls sport glowing, heart-shaped, charmingly dopey red glasses for a Friday night dance. And in one particularly moving photograph (pictured), eight figures in heavy parkas stand amid the gloom, staring calmly at something unknown behind the photographer, as if they were characters in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
After spending a few minutes absorbing Johnson’s collected works, it becomes clear that Baffin Island is a mesmerizingly peaceful place—but also one that’s terrifyingly lonely.
Through Jan. 31 at the Embassy of Canada, 501 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. Mon-Fri 8:30-5:00.