In August 2010, Seattle-based photographer Eirik Johnson trekked up to Barrow, Alaska, an arctic shore town at the tippy top of the United States, on assignment to take photos of people cleaning up a defunct navy base. Up there, in the summer, night doesn't fall for weeks at a time, and so after a day's work he'd take advantage of the season's interminable "magic hour"—what is usually just before the sun sets, though up there it was around 3 a.m.—capturing the seasonal hunting camps of the local Inupiat tribal members. In a phone interview, Johnson says he was drawn to "how idiosyncratic and individual each cabin was," thinking that this new-found series, Barrow Cabins, would allow "architecture to be a stand-in for the portraits of the people." Still, something was missing. "I realized I had photograph them at the winter solstice counterpoint."
And so in December, more than two years after his first trip, he headed back to Barrow to shoot the same buildings, from the same angle, as they are in the endless evenings of winter. In December, the only light is at "dusk," which lasts between 11 a.m. and about 1:30 p.m., Johnson says. "There was this really concentrated period where I had to do all the work."
The timing wasn't the only obstacle. Temperatures hovered around negative 40—negative 40!—degrees and, of course, "there were polar bears there, so you kind of had to keep an eye out for that."
According to his website, the duplicity of the series makes each pair of photos "a meditation on the passage of time and seasonal shift along the extreme horizon of the Arctic."