In April 2013 Jeroen Toirkens and Petra Sjouwerman travelled by car, boat, bus and snowmobile across the Barents region, the last remaining wilderness in Europe. They partly followed the so-called Barents-road, which just like the region, is named after the 16th century Dutch polar explorer Willem Barentsz.
They started this extraordinary journey of nearly 3.000 kilometres in Bodø (Norway) and ended in Murmansk (Russia). Sometimes they felt overwhelmed by the infinite emptiness and silence, and elated by the feeling of being alone in the world. Other times they were troubled by the rough, cold and desolate landscape. But again and again the people they encountered on the way surprised them with their openness and hospitality. The journey brought them into contact with Finnish tango fans, brave elderly women in a forgotten Russian village and ‘the king of Lapland’.
As part of the Netherlands-Russia Year 2013 they produced the book and photo-exhibition SOLITUDE in the wake of Willem Barentsz. In which they relate their personal experiences to excerpts from the historic diary of one of the crew members of Willem Barentsz. Themes from this 400-year old diary, like loneliness, hardship, courage and friendship, still play an essential role in this remote area today.