Ragnar Axelsson



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  Vienna
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