Sweden’s indigenous community is brought into focus through powerful portrait series

Merethe. Joel Marklund / BILDBYRÅN

Sweden’s indigenous and unrepresented community has been brought into focus through a powerful series by photographer Joel Marklund. A subject close to his heart, he aimed to go beyond the stereotypes he feels the Sami community is associated with, revealing their everyday lives through intimate portraits.

“The best stories aren’t always the ones in the most exotic or remote locations,” says Joel, on his powerful series of Sweden's Sami community. “I was determined to cover something I believed in, something that really mattered to me. The Sami story has not been told by many so, having grown up in Boden near to where some of their communities resided, it was one I felt both compelled and humbled to tell.”

The Sami people traditionally inhabit a territory known as Sápmi, which traverses the northern parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland and the Russian Kola peninsula. Although divided by the formal boundaries of the four States, the Samis exist as one group, united by cultural and linguistic bonds and a common identity. Joel wanted to communicate the true nature of this identity and move beyond surface-level perceptions of ‘reindeer herders living in the mountains’.

To document what it is like to live as a Sami today in Sweden, Joel spent six weeks visiting the community, embedding himself in the lives of twelve of its people – from singers and dancers to drum makers and students – to tell their individual stories. Joel’s images reveal the Sami people in both their traditional environment, wearing traditional clothing called ‘gákti’, and their day-to-day working lives that are more intertwined with the rest of society. This cultural contrast runs throughout the series. Discover more at europe-nikon.com.

Joel Marklund is a renowned photographer who specialises in sports imagery. Based in Stockholm, he is currently Chief Photographer at Sweden’s number one sports photography agency, Bildbyran. Joel has worked in more than 45 different countries and covered numerous global events, including five Olympic Games. He has published his work all over the world and won multiple awards for his images. These include Picture of the Year International, NPPA Best of Photojournalism and the Swedish Picture of the Year Award.

Ola Stinnerbom, Sami artist and drum maker, poses for a portrait on February 16, 2017 in Sunne, Sweden.  Joel Marklund / BILDBYRÅN

Ola Stinnerbom, Sami artist and drum maker, poses for a portrait on February 16, 2017 in Sunne, Sweden. Joel Marklund / BILDBYRÅN

Ola Stinnerbom plays a traditional instrument on February 16, 2017 in Sunne, Sweden.  Joel Marklund / BILDBYRÅN

Ola Stinnerbom plays a traditional instrument on February 16, 2017 in Sunne, Sweden. Joel Marklund / BILDBYRÅN

Marika Renhuvud, dancer, poses for a portrait on June 28, 2017 in Storsätern, Sweden.  Joel Marklund / BILDBYRÅN

Marika Renhuvud, dancer, poses for a portrait on June 28, 2017 in Storsätern, Sweden. Joel Marklund / BILDBYRÅN

Marika Renhuvud helps out in the slaughterhouse on October 24, 2016 in Idre, Sweden.  Joel Marklund / BILDBYRÅN

Marika Renhuvud helps out in the slaughterhouse on October 24, 2016 in Idre, Sweden. Joel Marklund / BILDBYRÅN

Marika Renhuvud performs during a show on March 3, 2017 at the Ballet Academy in Stockholm, Sweden.  Joel Marklund / BILDBYRÅN

Marika Renhuvud performs during a show on March 3, 2017 at the Ballet Academy in Stockholm, Sweden. Joel Marklund / BILDBYRÅN

Maxida Märak, artist, poses for a portrait on March 18, 2017 in Stockholm, Sweden.  Joel Marklund / BILDBYRÅN

Maxida Märak, artist, poses for a portrait on March 18, 2017 in Stockholm, Sweden. Joel Marklund / BILDBYRÅN

Maxida Märak during a soundcheck before her night performance at Södra Teatern on December 9, 2016 in Stockholm, Sweden. Maxida Märak is proud to be Sami and has made strong political stands against discrimination.  Joel Marklund / BILDBYRÅN

Maxida Märak during a soundcheck before her night performance at Södra Teatern on December 9, 2016 in Stockholm, Sweden. Maxida Märak is proud to be Sami and has made strong political stands against discrimination. Joel Marklund / BILDBYRÅN

Maxida Märak is waiting between songs to perform at Södra Teatern on December 9, 2016 in Stockholm, Sweden.  Joel Marklund / BILDBYRÅN

Maxida Märak is waiting between songs to perform at Södra Teatern on December 9, 2016 in Stockholm, Sweden. Joel Marklund / BILDBYRÅN