Then and Now Project




Bryan Alexander

icebergBryan began photographing when he was eight years old after being given a Kodak Brownie camera as a birthday present. As his interest in photography grew, he progressed to developing his films and making prints of his photographs, using a broom cupboard in his home as a darkroom.

In 1966, Bryan visited the famous London photographer Bill Brandt, whose work he greatly admired. It was Bill Brandt’s encouragement, that made Bryan finally settle on a career as a professional photographer, and he went on to study photography in London.

Bryan’s interest in Arctic peoples began in 1969 after reading a book about the Inuit of the North Greenland by the Danish explorer Knud Rasmussen. Influenced by the writing of both Knud Rasmussen and Peter Freuchen, Bryan used a Royal Society of Arts travel bursary to visit Northwest Greenland in 1971. He spent four months there, photographing the daily life of the local Inuit. That was the start of what was to become a lifetime’s work of documenting the Arctic and its peoples.

For the past 50 years, Bryan has travelled to the Arctic every year and spent weeks, and sometimes months, at a time living and photographing in remote communities around the circumpolar north.






The Collection

Bryan’s work has evolved into a fascinating and unique archive of over 50,000 photographs. It is not just a massive collection of great photographs; it is also a valuable ethnographic record of a period of enormous change for the Arctic’s peoples. The focus of the collection is the traditional life of more than fifteen different northern cultures. Many of the photos feature cultural traditions, as well as communities, that no longer exist today. This only adds to the importance of this collection.

What is particularly remarkable is the considerable time that Bryan spends in these remote Arctic communities, often returning to the same areas time and time again. This is reflected by the depth of his coverage of these different northern cultures.

The collection includes many seldom photographed aspects of traditional Arctic, from six week long polar bear hunts with the Inuit out on the frozen sea of North Greenland to shamanistic rituals of the peoples in Northern Siberia. It also includes the daily life of native people in communities, right around the Arctic.

Creating this collection of images has not been easy. It has involved travelling thousands of miles around the circumpolar north by plane, helicopter, snowmobile, dog team and reindeer sled.

Bryan has had his share of scary moments – On one occasion while he was travelling in North Greenland on the frozen sea, the ice broke up around him and he spent several days on an ice floe drifting towards Canada,  before finally being rescued by helicopter. Bryan has fallen through thin sea ice into freezing water. He got frostbite after having to walk for six hours through the snow with wet feet at -40°C after his snowmobile broke down. Despite these mishaps Bryan continues to work in the Arctic.


Bryan has carried out assignments for many of the World's leading magazines including, Time, GEO, Le Figaro, Smithsonian, Vogue, People, International Wildlife, and the Sunday Times. His photographs and articles have been published in more than 40 different countries.

He has also worked on numerous book projects. Bryan was assigned to take the photographs for two books in Time-Life’s ‘Peoples of the Wild’ series, ‘Hunters of the Polar North’ and ‘Masked Dancers of West Africa’. His other books include,

  • ‘Inuit Hunters of the North’ (Colour Library Books),
  • ‘Eskimo Boy’ (A & C Black)
  • ‘Inuit’ (Wayland)
  • ‘What Do We Know About the Inuit’ (Macdonald Young Books)
  • ‘Journey into the Arctic’ (Oxford University Press)
  • ‘The Vanishing Arctic’ (Cassell) and ‘Journey into the Arctic’ (Oxford University Press).
  • '40 Below - Traditional Life in the Arctic' (Arctica Publishing),
  • ‘Our Siberian Journey’ (Oxford University Press).

During the past few years, Bryan has been working on a new project, ‘Then & Now.’ This has involved him revisiting a number of the communities that he first worked in many years ago. He has re-photographed people, some of whom were children when he first photographed them, and has documented the changes that have happened in their lives and communities.

There is now a special limited edition book of this project,

"Then & Now "
"The Changing Face Of The Arctic"

For more information about this book.

In 2021 Bryan published a special limited edition book to celebrate their 50 years of Photographing in the Arctic

"INUGHUIT  1971- 2021"

For more information about this book.