The Faroe Islands are eighteen islands in the black water of the North Atlantic. My grandfather grew up on the southernmost island of Su∂uroy. After volunteering for the British Merchant Navy he settled in the port city of Liverpool in England and raised a family with my grandmother whose family came from Wales.
Growing up a map of the Faroe Islands hung on the wall in our house. The Faroes have been part of the Danish realm for hundreds of years, so the map was in Danish. At the top of the map it read ‘Færøerne’.
The islands were and still are a mystery to me. I’ve been visiting and talking to people on the most remote islands, listening to their stories, wandering the landscape, sailing around the islands, taking in the weather, the moving colours and watching the birds. In a way it’s like collecting new mysteries to add to the original curiosity surrounding the map.
I’ve gathered my work here into the ‘dark’ months and the ‘light’ months. The Faroe Islands are subject to different rates of change. A rapid hourly change in weather, a slow geological change of the Islands themselves and the changes taking place amongst the Faroese as they are increasingly connected to the rest of the world. Young people travel further afield to study and work, villages on the smallest and toughest islands shrink as people move to the bigger towns.
Many of the islands are connected by tunnels, subsidised helicopter routes and regular ferries connect tiny villages. Some tunnels even slide beneath the Atlantic Ocean. This need to communicate and connect is reflected in the Faroese love of stories, news and information. Television only made it to the Faroes in the 1980’s so many of the current generation of parents grew up visiting one another’s homes in the evening to share stories.
Out of the darkness arrives the spring. The oystercatchers arrive, the snow melts, the fresh winds blow. Spring in the Faroes is the arrival of light.
I photographed the islands as the seasons changed. The story is also a metaphor for the arrival of new ways in the Faroes. Like ships arriving on the horizon at dawn, these islands in the North Atlantic are gradually being visited by the influence of the wider world.
At Easter the young people who have been studying abroad return home, bringing with them new ideas and energy. Like soil on the feet of visiting birds, these ideas mix with the old ways and something new is born.