Dana Lixenberg (1964, Amsterdam, NL) studied photography at the London College of Printing from 1984 to 1986, and at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam from 1987 until 1989.
Her extensive project Imperial Courts, 1993-2015, which tracks the changing shape of a small, underserved community in Watts, Los Angeles, through a combination of video, a web documentary, audio recordings, and a series of 393 black and white photographs, was awarded the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize in 2017. Jeffersonville, Indiana (2005) shows a collection of landscapes and portraits of the small town’s homeless population, and The Last Days of Shishmaref (2008) documents an Inupiaq community on an eroding island of the coast of Alaska.
Shishmaref is an Inupiaq Eskimo community on an island in the far northwest corner of Alaska. Their native land is threatened by the sea as a result of global warming. The 600 inhabitants will be forced to relocate to the mainland within ten years. They may be considered the first community of climate refugees. The project The Last Days of Shishmaref documents this drama by a feature-length film, a photobook and a traveling exhibition.
Introduction to The Last Days of Shishmaref
The countless news crews that visited the island over the past years paid no attention to the society as such. Almost all of them reported from the island in front of the house that hangs precariously over the eroding coastline. The climate message was the main focus of their stories. To filmmaker Jan Louter and photographer Dana Lixenberg, in contrast, the climate was a backdrop for the histories of people, of a community, of a life in all its paradoxical intricacies. Images of the hunt and of immense seascapes and snow-covered landscapes interact with intimate portraits and scenes from cluttered interiors. The impression it leaves yields more questions than answers: questions about identity, dignity, transience and mortality. What does it mean for an individual, for a culture to be forced to leave the land where their forefathers were born?