Hornstrandir Memories, Heart of a forgotten land

Are you convinced about the need to preserve singular life stories? Contribute to this project base in the northern fjords of Iceland

Visueel van project Hornstrandir Memories, Heart of a forgotten land
Voor €4.800
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Édition 2014

Europe Refresh
Gesteund door
Europe Refresh ondersteunt het project: Hornstrandir Memories, Heart of a forgotten landAtomium ondersteunt het project: Hornstrandir Memories, Heart of a forgotten land

Hornstrandir Memories, Heart of a forgotten land

The project received the Atomium award from Atomium at the Salon EUROPE REFRESH II in Brussels. Thanks to this generous support, Book Publishing 48 pages 16,5x22 cm format is now possible.

This is so great !!!




This photographic project focuses on memory, traces and uprooting. It tells the story of men and women forced, as children, to abandon with their families, their homeland and their farms in the remote and isolated fjords area in the far north-west of Iceland, the Hornstrandir. This was during the period of the Second World War and the Cold War. Since 2009 I have traveled by foot into this mountainous region to collect photographically the remnants and traces of life today. I also went in search of the last living witnesses to gather on audio recordings of their childhood memories and preserve these remarkable stories of a unique way of life that has already disappaered, into this for transmission. Wherever possible, I photographed people at their childhood house or sometimes just on the ruins.


.... "Every spring, many people came to Hornvik to collect the eggs in the cliffs. They represented a big part of life here at Horn. I was fifteen the first time I collected eggs, I was not at all scared about going there, on the contrary, I was very excited to finally be allowed. When I was younger, I often went into the valleys to graze sheep and I leaned over the edge of the cliff. When I was five-six years old, I even went with a friend of my age, down a little way to collect some eggs ... but then we were caught by his mother and we were not allow to go back again together .. Sometimes, I was just sitting on the edge of the cliff with a sort of small tool that helped me to capture the birds. ".. ..


Over the years I have collected a lot of photographic material, audio and video records and written. With all this rich material, several possibilities arose, the first of which for now is to produce series of 20 photographic prints in a large format 60x80 cm professional quality with the aim to build an exhibition and share the project and this story. My hope is that the exhibition is followed by a publication, which is now possible with the generous support from Atomium.





The First book is of modest size, 48 pages in a 16.5 cm x 22 cm format, pleasant and sufficiently illustrated to accompany the exhibition in both French and Englsih.

Here is an overview of the photographic work depicting the atmosphere of the project:



Aware about the ethnologic value of those testimonies, I will also start a thesis project in Art and Science of art, at the Faculty of Anthropology, especially the Laboratory of anthropology prospective UCL together with the photography workshop at the Academy of Fine Arts in Brussels, where the need will be the development of an exhibition and the publication of a book


At the end of this thesis, I will be abble to base better my credibility to become guardian of living memory, unknown profession but yet real, whose mission is to create social links based on the history of a country, a community, a neighborhood, a linving or professional place (this list is not exhaustive). Thus by looking at the past and living eyewitnesses of social, economic facts, cultural, political, whose memory will disappear, to transmit it into different forms.


Whatever happens, the realization of the first stage Hornstrandir Memories through the exhibition and the first book publication will allow me to create the basis to continue my research through other future projects allowing continued transmission of stories and tales of singular lives.


Want to know more about the project?  Let me guide you through the roadlog of HORNSTRANDIR MEMORIES:


The dream ...

Since 2009, I travel by foot every summer in the area of remote and isolated fjords, in extreme  Icelandic northwest, the Hornstrandir.


Map Hornstrandir with my working notes to link peoples with their childhood place.


               View from the cliff at Hornvik.


        Myself walking into the Hornbjarg valley, near Horn's cliffs.

The area was deserted by its population since World War II and the Cold War. These two historical events have led to unprecedented changes in this remote area and irremediable consequences on rurality.


                 Aerial view of the Bay Hornvik and the cliffs Hornbjarg.


        Farewell message written on a door of the house in Horn, right, Stiggur Stigsson born and raise at    Horn.


The British army hired at great expense labor, and some of the young men, representing farm labourerss left their farms to construct military bases. With their gain they abandoned their home land. Those who decided to stay in their farm were very quickly no longer able to cope with the situation, and also for specific family reasons, the fjords of Hornstrandir have gradually emptied of all human life.


          Ruins of the British military base Dari , Bay Adalvik.


            Ruins of abandoned farms, Bay Adalvik.


In the 70s, the Icelandic government established the area as a Nature reserve and since that time, a big promotion is made around the pre-Arctic wildlife and trek activities. On the total detriment of the story of these women and men.


View from my tent : Arctic fox hunting everything ... for breakfast ..!

Some families have rebuilt their house heritage and return there to spend the summer;  No one lives permanently in the region anymore.


Restoration work made during the summer by some descendants of families originally from the region,  Saebol in Adalvik bay. Summerfest to Sæból, because work is good .. but not without fun!


                                      It's me ...

Thus, during my training as a nature guide, I was naturally very attracted by this region. First it was a love at first sight and a sense of immoderation as the only wilderness desert areas of the Artic, wich does not meet the laws of the human bondage.

Then walking there, ruins corssed my path and attracted my eye and prompted in me the question :

"What are these ruins and why nobody is talking about them ? ..."


To reality ...

In June 2010, I landed by boat in the middle of a Hornstrandir's shore with material, equipment and food, for 7 days, my return ticket in my pocket. I promised myself to go back earlier in the season after the past few days spent in the area the previous summer .The sky is beautifully blue, I'm lucky because the weather may at any time of the year be very unstable and challenging. I pitch my tent, I take time to acclimate, I eat, I'm deafened by the silence, the sound of the sea, the wind and the cries of birds .. I gradually flow into another space-time. I must admit that a great loneliness takes hold of me. I feel I am alone, lost at the middle of nowhere ... with only myself to rely on. The receiving mobile network almost doesn't exist, usually one has we have to the top of a mountain to capture a network, making contact with the outside world quite challenge. Walking two hours there and two hours back to return a call to his family gives a precious moment that we cannot imagine when in our living room at home ...


Day 2

I need time to get use to my loneliness .... After a bad night in a tent, good news anyway, here it is, the work will start, finally !  I came to this place specifically to go to the ascent of the fjord and visit the ruins from the British military base built during World War II and which are perched atop.  It without counting on an unprecedented event in my life as a photographer ...


So entirely inexplicable, my digital camera newly acquired falls and of course struck a rock ... The anger passes, I calm down because ultimately I still have my medium format film camera, and a large stock of silver films that would certainly help to last the week.


The military "did not do things by half", saving time and money, the mountain path is drawn vertically, which makes it hard to walk ... but even ... I'm progressing. Check halfway, exceptional view of the bay is worth a picture ... and it is at this moment that I realize the medium format camera was also defective.. (electrical leakage) .. I think I've never felt so alone in the world ... so much effort to get there .... I had to dominate opposing inner streams ... everything was about to stop. ..

Except that I eventually chose to use my last resources, iei.e my notebook, my pen and my head ... those things wich had not yet left me. I write, draw, observe, reflect, meditate, walk ...

Geographically, I'm localized between the ruins of the English site of the ruins of the American military base built during the Cold War in the nearby fjord. I made links between very quickly and I reconnected with my previous project in the Canadian Arctic withthe Inuit people, themselves relocated following the implementation of American military bases ....


This incident ultimately became my biggest chance, beyond the anecdote among many others over the years of traveling, this was a landmark event in the evolution of the project. I got out of the fascination on me this gorgeous region on me, to immerse myself in the heart of the project.


             Resolution island - Nunavut - Canadian arctic


             Straumnes - Hornstrandir - Iceland


This is how, the roots of the project and research have planted. I went in search of the last native living witnesses to collect their childhood memories and life stories spent in Hornstrandir. By this way, to preserve this memory still alive today but who will disappear permanently quickly.   Visuel14-1411325518

       Bogga & Ingolf in Fljotavik in front of their current summer house.


I was met with great enthusiasm from everyone, many people welcomed me with open arms. As I got used to saying, this project could not have been done without all of them and their support. I also met some very strong emotions from many of the inhabitants as they were forced to leave the land and lived a painful uprooting.


            Ragnar Axelsson at Reykjarfjordur, at home. He is one of the last who left the area in 1959, he was 28 years old. He then returned every summer until now.


     Stiggur Stigsson at Horn in his actual summer house, the youngest of nine children, brother of Arnor, born in a farm in Horn at the foot of the cliff. His family was the last to live in the bay. They had no choice to abandon their farms and lands.


       Hlìt and his sister Sigrùn from Furufjordur.  Middel : Eyvindur from Hlöduvik.


In addition on the pictures, I did with everyone, on audio reccords, interviews that will be transcribed into text. I also started filming on video records last summer.

Photography part focused on three themes: landscapes,traces of life today and the remains, the people. I've done portraits and as much as possible I get pictures with people on their native place.


Stiggur at Horn at the place of his previous house. Hans on the ruins from his house at Hesteyri.


Gunnar sit on his new house's basement wich he's building piece by piece every summer at Dynjandi to demise at his grandchildren.


Gunnar in his tent pitched close to his summer dockyard.


During five years, I have collected a lot of visual and audio recordings.

Today, I imagine different forms for this project and  to share it with everyone. 

By this way, then blow to the wind the memory of Hornstrandir.



         Linegrette into wind.

Waar dient de collecte voor


The story does not end here and is still long ...


Together, preserve and transmit these singular and culturally rich stories, because they are the last reminders of a way of life already disappeared.

Passionate by cultures of orality and the question of transmission, convinced of the enormous wealth of this testimony. Myself very sensitive to issues of abandonment and uprooting, I conducted this work largely self-produced so far. To this was added a grant contribution of SPES (artistic patronage) in 2010.


It is also and above all the human and emotional support from many who have kept me going so far supports.


As I got into the habit of saying, this project would not have be possible without each and their support, I could not have come this far by myself. A sign that means a lot to these uprooted people.

Transmit its history, witness where we come from, who we are, create a link both on a family and social level. Suffering sometimes creates a wall of silence to avoid waking, some had never spoken about this period of their live with their familie before this project .... Children or grandchildren present during audio interviews thanked me, thanks to my research they had discovered a part of elder's lives.


So I felt very moved by the confidence they had in me and I also measure the responsibility to take this gift and bring this project to his accomplishment. The issues and the scope of this project are artistic, social, cultural and intra-familial. Today if we continue this chain of solidarity to raise the funds needs for an exhibition and a first publication of book. The amount collected will be dedicated to produce a professional quality of 20 photographic images, format 60x80 cm on fiber paper and mounted on aluminum substrate and form an exhibition. By the way, this will allow me to share this work.


Why print on fiber paper?  Barium paper is a paper quality fine art made ​​from natural fibers, it is not derived from petroleum products such as plastic or PVC, which is consistent with the values ​​that I support as much as possible, on the other hand, there is a paper with a definition and a record of superior quality, which gives the images an aesthetic quality hardly comparable.


Amount:      Photo Prints:   € 64.13 x 20 = € 1,282.6 VAT                    

                   Mounting Alu Bindings:  € 60.75 x 20 = € 1215 VAT                    

                   Sub-Total = €  2,497.6


I also calculated in my collection the amount needed to produce a double draw for a traveling exhibition, this one not mounted on aluminum support, which may then easier to travel with.  It's very important for me that people in Iceland and families in particular can benefit fromexhibitions without having to raise important expenses.


Amount:  Photo Print:  € 64.13 x 20 = € 1282.6 VAT Past these two stages so we have a total budget of € 3,780 VAT, but do not stay there!


To this add up come all the beautiful counterparties that are sure to color up your Christmas tree and sending them wherever you are in the world, and the 8% commission KissKissBankBank.

The amount of the collect is then set at € 4,800 VAT.



BUT !!


"Last but not least", if it was possible to obtain the amount of collection, the project of publishing a first book. "Hornstrandir Memories" is also a book, a story in which coexist images and texts from the recordings.


The budget is 2465 € VAT for an edition of a 16.5 cm x 22 cm soft cover and glossy lamination, with 48 pages full color offset quality of 300 exemplaryes. I sincerely hope that your generosity and support allows me to overcome all these levels ... and so offer to these people back their childhood memories and transmission they deserved. They can still live their lives realizing that their memories will not be doomed to oblivion.


I have been told they are eagerly awaiting the arrival of the book ... (between us).


Supporting Hornstrandir Memories will not only enable the project to take a decisive course, allowing images to live and stories to exist, since changes in society affect all of us, but it will also help me move forward in my professional project.



                    Help me take off Hornstrandir Memories, Heart of a forgotten land!



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