Mendocino, California, native Justin Lewis was raised in the raw and rustic Pacific Northwest, where he honed a keen eye for capturing images that instill wonder and inspire action. A graduate of Brooks Institute of Photography, Justin has traveled to over fifty countries where he has woven photography seamlessly into his lifestyle of exploration and conservation. His commercial and editorial work has been featured across the world while his recent environmental project, 70 Degrees West, uses a multimedia approach to capture important global stories about nature and cultural traditions. A passionate explorer of the Earth’s rural and wild places, Justin considers rock climbing, mountain biking, and anything ocean-related a daily necessity.
When did you make this film?
During the late winter of 2012, I had to opportunity to explore the arctic circle and capture the wild beauty of Greenland before the sea ice melted away with the onset of summer.
What was this project for?
Two years ago my partner, Michelle Stauffer, and I created a long term photo-documentary project called 70 Degrees West. The film Thule Hunter is the first film from this ongoing, global conservation based project.
What is the story behind the film?
It is said that Greenland’s Inuit name, Kalaallit Nunaat, means “The Land of Man.” In one of the world’s harshest places, the successful coexistence between humans and animals depends solely on nature’s delicate balance. As the largest island on the planet, Greenland’s isolated and arctic landscape is a place of wildness and pristine beauty that is rapidly disappearing. We spent six weeks filming in Qaanaaq, Greenland, one of the northern most municipalities in the world, to capture how changes in the climate, cultural traditions, hunting quotas, and the natural world have affected humans’ health and means of survival. The film, Thule Hunter, is meant to illuminate how globalization reaches even the furthest edges of the earth, and has complex implications on many levels.
What equipment do you use?
Canon EOS 5D MarkII, Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM lens, Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM lens, Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 USM lens, Canon 70-200mm f/4 L IS USM lens, Canon EF 15mm f/2.8 fisheye lens; time-lapse rail; intravolometer; Bramper (which I used to shoot dusk to dark, or dark to dawn time lapse transitions); Subal Underwater Housing, dome port and YS250 strobe arms. I am the biggest fan of natural light and try to use it whenever possible. Some of the most important gear I brought up to Greenland was the cold weather clothing.
What do you think made this project stand out to the judges?
I can’t say exactly what made this project stand out to the judges, but I have a feeling the icy landscape of Greenland had a little something to do with it. We were seeking to capture the reality of life in Qaanaaq, the challenges the Inuit culture faces, and the controversial ways of living. There are no easy answers when it comes to cultural traditions and killing wild animals for food out of necessity to survive and hold on to the links of the past. The film also allows viewers to go to places they might not visit in real life.