For over 40 years, Ragnar “RAX” Axelsson (b. 1958) has been photographing the people, animals and landscape of the most remote regions of the Arctic, including Iceland, Siberia and Greenland.
In stark black-and-white images, he captures the elemental, human experience of nature at the edge of the liveable world, making visible the extraordinary relationships between the people of the Arctic and their extreme environment — relationships now being altered in profound and complex ways by unprecedented climate changes.
A photojournalist at Morgunblaðið (1976 – 2020), Ragnar has also worked on freelance assignments in Latvia, Lithuania, Mozambique, South Africa, China and Ukraine. His photographs have been featured in LIFE, Newsweek, Stern, GEO, National Geographic, Time, and Polka and exhibited widely.
In addition, Ragnar has published seven books in various international editions. His most recent book, Jökull (Glacier), was published in 2018, with a foreword by Ólafur Elíasson. Andlit Nordursins (The Face of The North) was published in 2016, with a foreword by Mary Ellen Mark, and won the 2016 Icelandic Literary Prize for non-fiction. Arctic Heroes was published in 2020, and Where the World is Melting in 2022.
Other awards for Ragnar’s work include numerous Icelandic photojournalist awards; The Leica Oskar Barnack Award (Honorable Mention); the Grand Prize, Photo de Mer, Vannes; and Iceland’s highest honour, the Order of the Falcon, Knight’s Cross.
Ragnar is currently working on a three-year project documenting people’s lives in all eight countries of the Arctic. At this pivotal time, as climate change irrevocably disrupts the physical and traditional realities of their world, Ragnar is bearing witness to the immediate and direct threat that global warming poses to their survival.
2022 Where the World is Melting, Kunstfoyer Versicherungskammer Kulturstiftung, Munich
2020 Where the World is Melting, Reykjavik Art Museum, Reykjavík
2018 Glacier, House of Sweeden, Washington D.C., USA. 2018 Glacier, Ásmundarsalur, Reykjavík
2017 Gallerie Tre Ocy, Venice
2015 Isehrlon, Germany
2014 Faces of the North, Stadmuseum Schleswig, Germany
2014 Faces of the North, Katuaq, Nuuk, Greenland.
2014 Mirror of Life, The Reykjavík Museum of Photography, Reykjavík
2013 Faces of the North, Deutsches Zeitungsmuseum, Wadgassen, Germany
2013 Arion Bank, Reykjavík
2013 Impressions of Greenland, Campus des Cordeliers, Paris
2012 Last Days of the Arctic, Proud Gallery, London; Fotopub Festival, Novo Mesto, Slovenia; Gothenburg Book Fair, Gothenburg
2011 Immense and Fragile: A Tale of the North, Centro Culturale di Milano, Milan
2011 Last Days of the Arctic, Nordic Light International Festival of Photography, Kristiansund; Perspektivet Museum, Tromsø; Nordic Film, Lübeck; BIFF, Chagall Bar, Bergen
2010 Icelandic Pavilion, World Expo, Shanghai
2010 Faces of the Ages, Embassy of Iceland, Beijing; Institute of Glaciology and Geocryology, Lanzhou
2010 Last Days of the Arctic, Gerðarsafn Art Museum, Kópavogur; Shackleton Museum, Athy, Ireland
2010 Faces of the Ages, Gerðarsafn Art Museum, Kópavogur
2010 Faces of the North, NICE Festival, Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester
2009 Projection of work at LOOK3 Festival of the Photograph, Charlottesville, Virginia
2007 Ragnar Axelsson, La Cohue, Musée des Beaux-arts, Vannes
2007 Iceland: Nature’s Mystery, FNAC, Milan
2006 transForm, Felleshus, Nordic Embassies, Berlin
2006 Iceland Today, Forum für Fotografie, Cologne
2005 Faces of the North, Austurvöllur, Reykjavík
2005 Paris Photo, Louvre, Paris
2005 Ragnar Axelsson: Photographs, FNAC, Marbella; FNAC Valencia
2004 Icelandic Encounters, Argus Fotokunst, Berlin
2004 Iceland, Altonaer Museum, Hamburg.
2004 Ragnar Axelsson, FNAC Italie 2, Paris
2003 Photo Festival of Val d’Orcia, Tuscany
2003 Festival Photo de Mer, Vannes
2002 Faces and Figures: Contemporary Scandinavian Photography, Haggerty Museum of Art, Milwaukee
2002 Un Mondo ai Confini del Mondo, Clic Art, Milan
2002 Icelandic Photography, House of Photography, Moscow
2001 The Leica Oskar Barack Prize, Les Rencontres d’Arles, Arles
2001 Faces and Figures: Contemporary Scandinavian Photography, Scandinavia House, The Nordic Center in America, New York
2000 Exhibition and screening of the North Atlantic Project, Visa Pour L’Image, International Festival of Photojournalism, Perpignan
1992 Tender is the North: Visual Arts from Scandinavia, Barbican Centre, London
1990 Round up for a Day, Kjarvalsstaðir, Reykjavík Art Museum, Reykjavík