Erika Larsen

Sámi: The People Who Walk With Reindeer

January 24, 2012 - March 13, 2012

Artist's Reception: Tuesday, January 24 at 7:30 p.m.
We will screen Erika's 10-minute film about a Sámi family
she lived with in Kautokeino, Norway. Then, Erika and
Sarah Leen, senior photo editor at National Geographic magazine,
will moderate a slideshow and discussion of Erika’s work.

The Sámi (“the People”) are by tradition reindeer herders who live as nomads. Indigenous to the Arctic Circle of northern Scandinavia, their livelihood depends acutely on their surroundings. Thus, their spoken language is rich in its ability to explain the natural world.

I created this story between 2007 and 2011. I came here to understand the primal drive of the modern hunter, and to find a people who, when the land spoke, could interpret its language.

I started by getting work as a beaga—a housekeeper—for a Sámi family in order to better understand what I was seeing and experiencing when making the images. The learning process for understanding the culture took daily effort through work, learning North Sámi language, and listening.

With the first images I created, I saw that the Sámi live in two worlds. In one I found a people with a rich connection to the past, driven by the need to survive, and enveloped in a relationship with the earth and her surroundings. As a nomadic people they were independent of the world outside their Arctic environment. In the second world, I saw a group of people solidly inhabiting the present. Their culture was aware of global connectivity and modern technology.

My photographs explore the Sámi’s symbiotic relationship with the environment, their existence in today’s world, and the mystery and beauty that fueled past generations to survive into today’s modern world. As biodiversity, forest stability, abundance of water, and wildlife management become globally vital, this community will be vital to understanding sustainability in the Arctic region.

Erika Larsen (b. 1976) has worked as a magazine photographer since 2000. A Fulbright scholar, her photography has been included in the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery and FOTFEST 2010 BIENNIAL, among other places. Her work looks intimately at cultures that maintain a strong connection to the natural world. This is the first U.S. exhibit of her Sámi work.


The Half King Photography Series is dedicated to showing exceptional documentary photography and film. In tandem with its reading series, The Half King fosters a dialog between photographers and writers that underscores the importance of their unique relationship. Co-curating its photography series are James Price, Photo Editor at Newsweek, and Anna Van Lenten, writer and editor.



The Half King photography series is curated by James Price and Anna Van Lenten

Previous exhibitions at The Half King