Magnus Holm, from Denmark, stands six feet three inches tall. He has a mound of floppy blonde hair and a grin that can disarm the devil. It’s the latter that enables him to mask his size and draw his subjects in to capture memorable moments for his camera.
I first saw his photography when I was judging the 2013 College Photographer of the Year (CPOY) contest at the University of Missouri. His photographic style and unique stories were hard to miss, raising his work above his contemporaries. Magnus’s portfolio placed first. National Geographic magazine sponsors the contest and the winner receives an internship at the magazine—our only still photography internship.
After Magnus spent a few weeks in the office taking in other photographers’ shows, observing how we operate, and researching ideas, we decided on Igloolik, a small Inuit hamlet 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle in Nunavut, Canada. His mission was to document how the Inuit are trying to hold on to their culture and traditions while the modern world relentlessly presses in from all sides.
Magnus stepped off the plane 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle knowing no one, his only connection a kind voice from a couch surfing website who agreed to let him rent her sofa—if he’d watch her dog while she was away. He didn’t realize that he’d only have three hours of daylight to work with each day! He ended up barfing his brains out after eating raw walrus meat. And he fell through the sea ice and endured a bone-chilling 25-minute snowmobile ride back to town. But he also made great friends, such as Paul Nangmalik, 40, who lives and breathes to be out on the ice. He took Magnus seal hunting.
“I really have had a great learning experience both photographically and on a personal level,” Magnus wrote from the field. “It has been interesting trying to be away from everything and everyone you know for so long, being forced to be a part of a whole new community and culture. Every time I photograph, I hear people telling me about things that have happened; or things they have done; or plans they have; and I just see the photos in my head. It really is about being there, being patient, and being around as much as possible so they are completely comfortable in your company. The experiences and things I’ve learned here are definitely something I can use so much of in future projects.”
Magnus might say he was lucky to have me as a mentor, but the truth is I was lucky to be able to work with him. His enthusiasm, youthful vision, and willingness to learn lifted my spirits and gave me fresh eyes to see things in a different light.
Magnus Holm will be attending the Pathshala South Asian Media Institute in Bangladesh where he’ll study photography until January. He plans to graduate from the Danish School of Journalism in the spring of 2015. He is currently seeking funding to go back to Igloolik in the spring of 2015.