Ragnar Axelsson

Ragnar Axelsson, 59, is an Icelandic photographer who is well-known for chronicling the lives of subsistence hunters, fishermen, and farmers in the Arctic, the North Atlantic, Northern Scandinavia, and Siberia. Rax, as he is affectionately called, started photographing (professionally) at the age of 16 and joined Morgunblaðið, the leading Icelandic newspaper, two years later. He still contributes to the paper. His books, Faces of the North and The Last Days of the Arctic, tell a poignant story about climate change and its impact on our planet.


Climate change is one of the most hotly debated topics of our time, and often these debates devolve into arguments and lose all meaning. But when you can see the changes in our world, it shakes you deeply. That is how I felt when I first discovered the work of Ragnar “Rax” Axelsson. A longtime Leica photographer, he was featured in a documentary where he talked about Leica M Monochrome. I bought his books and was mesmerized by the photographs and their poignancy. Inspired by Rax, I decided to visit Iceland with my Leica M Monochrome and a single 50-millimeter lens and use them as my primary tools to make landscapes of one of my favorite countries. While in Iceland, over a coffee, I asked Startup Iceland founder Bala Kamallakharan if he knew Rax. He didn’t, but he knew someone who did. And before I knew it, Rax and I were chattering away about photography, life, and climate change. This is a highly edited version of our conversation.

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