/15 Mountains

Jeroen Toirkens


In 1999 Toirkens initiated a project called Nomadslife, in which he plans to document the life of the last nomadic peoples on the Northern Hemisphere. Toirkens became fascinated by the nomad families high in Turkey’s Bolkar Mountains. He encountered the way of life of the Yörük, who were struggling with the pressures of a modernising Turkey. What were originally their nomadic pastures were being bought up by real estate developers, and many of the young people were departing for life in the cities. Aer that he visited other originally nomadic peoples who were encountering comparable problems. For instance, in 2005 and 2006 he and the journalist Jelle Brandt Corstius spent time with the Sámi and the Nenets in Russia. Before the Soviet era family units from these tribes were constantly on the move with their herds. Under the Soviet regime they were forced to become workers on collective farms, the kolchoses, a policy from which they are still suffering the consequences. In 2010 Toirkens visited Barrow in Alaska, the centre for traditional whaling. There the nomadic life has already made way for a settled lifestyle.

His book Nomad (Lannoo, 2011) shows the pervasive photos Toirkens took during his eleven trips to nomadic peoples. With this book he creates a diverse and often poignant picture of nomadism in the 21st century. Jelle Brandt Corstius journalist and presenter, who accompanied Toirkens on a number of trips, wrote an extended essay for the book. Working closely with photo editor Marc Prüst, Toirkens selected the images that told his story of contemporary nomads. In 2013 his second book, Solitude -In the wake of Willem Barentsz- (Lannoo, 2013) was published. For this book Toirkens worked together with writer Petra Sjouwerman. Together they sketch an intimate portrait of people living in solitude in the Arctic North of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia, an area called the Barents Region. Europe’s last true wilderness.

In 2012 he was awarded with the prestigious CANON prize for the best innovative photostory for his project NomadsLife. According to the jury: “A project that, in these hectic times, stresses that a long focus on one issue leads to new insights, knowledge and images that transcend clichés in a superior way.”