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FrontRunners: Picturing The Last Wilderness

Gay Van Ausdall

Subhankar Banerjee has no fear of the wilderness. In 2001, he set out on a two-year, 4,000-mile quest to photograph the fragile, remote region of northeastern Alaska during all four seasons. His haunting images can be seen in The Last Wilderness at the Gerald Peters Gallery (212.628.9760, www.gpgallery.com) in Manhattan from September 9 through October 16. Thirty large-format color photographs chronicle Banerjee’s journey with an Inupiat guide across 19.5 million acres of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.  Through simple compositions and subdued lighting, he highlights the ecological diversity of the territory. His exhibit became part of the national debate on opening the refuge to oil drilling when it appeared at the Smithsonian in 2003. After some controversy, officials moved the display to a lower room and deleted text advocating preservation from the captions. Nevertheless, the panoramas of musk oxen in ice fog, a caribou migration, and wildflowers in the Kongakut Valley remain an eloquent testament to Banerjee’s lifelong passion for the wild.

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