You may not know it, but Norway has the distinction of having a one-of-a-kind police unit–the Reinpolitiet (Reindeer Police). Those unfamiliar with the duties of this group of officers may find the idea of reindeer policing a bit peculiar, however the mission of this unit is an important one.
Founded in 1949, Norway’s Reindeer Police are tasked with oversight and environmental protection of the northernmost counties of Finnmark and Troms. Made up of just 15 officers, the unit patrols an area over 21,000 square miles and oversees and assists reindeer herding by the indigenous Sami people.
Each two-person team of officers embarks on weeklong shifts, often traveling via snowmobile from one location to another following the reindeer migration from the mountains to the coast. Along the way officers perform routine tasks like checking permits or issuing snowmobile speeding citations, but the more unique aspects of their work are helping herders move their reindeer from one island to another or settling disputes.
Rare photo opportunity documents migration
Recently, a photojournalist named Gianmarco Maraviglia ventured into the vast, snowy expanse of northwest Norway to document the work of the officers for an assignment for Vanity Fair Italy and Marie Claire France. An area not open to tourists, Maraviglia’s ride-along captured an inside look at the reindeer herd migration that few experience firsthand—aside from Sami herders themselves.
Paired with a guide, Maraviglia shadowed the officers on snowmobile as they tracked reindeer and met with herders. His experiences provided him an appreciation for the landscape that stretched his boundaries as portrait photographer. “Here the subject, for the first time in my life, was nature,” he told CNN. “I think it worked because I was really touched by the landscape in the same way I’m usually touched by the story of a person.” Likening the vastness of the Norwegian landscape to a white desert, Maraviglia called it “breathtaking.”
To view Maraviglia’s photography while on patrol with the Reindeer Police, visit http://www.gianmarcomaraviglia.com/reindeer-police