I wouldn’t describe myself as a nature photographer, but I have great respect for those who are out attempting to record these areas and species so dangerously close to the edge. Wilfred Wessel Berthelsen knocks it out of the park with his book “Exodus,” a stunning, hardcover photobook documenting the “calm, solitude and fragility of the world of ice and snow.” Now, Wilfred’s site is just “Wilfred Wessel,” so this might be a Norwegian shortcut for the rest of us. All I know is, I’m fascinated by Norway because I know so little about it. Other than I might pack a jacket. (Norway seems more intelligent, more together, than the US.)
You might think you know this book, or this subject, but this work has a truly different feel. You think “Antarctica, Svalbard,” but the images don’t FEEL quite like you expect them to, and this is a good thing. There are images of ice, images of penguins and polar bears but the animals are one layer of what feels more like reportage than nature photography. It took me a while to figure it out why.
Some of the images in this book are the best I’ve seen from these environments. I know that is saying a a lot as these regions are well traveled with the photo crews these days. But there is purposeful, visual defiance from Wessel’s point of view. He pays tribute to his influences with mentions of Salgado, Kenna and Adams. The printing is excellent and the paper and bind are top notch. The pages are thick and feel like bound prints. The design is simple and stays out of way, as does the type treatment. There is just enough there to answer questions. And finally, there is an included artist statement, and one that actually makes sense. Complete with nice letterhead, for which I am a total sucker, the statement reads like he is speaking to me and not some curator waiting for a page of art speak that leaves most mortal humans scratching their head. (These also keep the general public out of galleries and museums.) Finally, a total commitment to black and white in a location where many shoot color. Kudos.