98 for 98: The century in photographs: today 1998

The century in photographs: today 1998
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Indy Lifestyle Online
Today's photograph brings to a close The Independent's photo-history of the 20th-century so far. Having been specially commissioned for Photo 98, the Finnish photographer Jorma Puranen undertook to document the erosion of the way of life of the Sami, a native Scandinavian people.

Multinational mining and timber companies are threatening the natural habitat of the Sami in Arctic Lapland and Greenland, but Puranen has chosen to add a historical dimension to the desecration of the one of the last great wilderness areas in Europe and the effect on its population.

The Latin inscription in the foreground is intended to echo the efforts of the earliest modern explorers to chart these unknown terrains. The 15th and 16th century maps of northern Scandinavia often used the motifs of theatrical set design and classical captions in an attempt to render the vast natural expanse less alien to the Renaissance eye. Puranen's political analogy - that today's corporate concerns in some sense represent a continuation of man's age-old desire to bring nature to heel - is an apposite reminder of, arguably, our weightiest preoccupation as we head into the next millennium: how to curb our impact on the natural environment and maintain our faith in progress.

Puranen's exhibition, Curiosus Naturae Spectator, can be seen at the Impressions Gallery in York (01904 654724) as part of Photo 98 - The Year of Photography and the Electronic Image. Though our contribution, "98 for 98", concludes today, Photo 98 continues its 12-month exposure of the world's photographic talent with a series of high-profile national events and exhibitions, featuring 120 new commissions and the work of more than 400 artists.

Over the past six months, The Independent, Newspaper of the Year for Photographs, in conjunction with the Hulton Getty Picture Collection, has endeavoured to open a window on each year of the century to date. Such has been the response to this remarkable series of images - many hitherto never seen in public - that it is hoped a book of "98 for 98" will be published before the end of the year - watch this space for news.

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