The island of Faroe in Denmark oozes fairytale aesthetic. From the rolling hills tipped with sprinklings of snow to the tiny buildings housing the diminishing population of 50,000 inhabitants.Belgium based photographer Kevin Faingnaert documented these small island towns in his series ‘Føroyar,’ giving us a sensation of nostalgia for a place we’ve never visited.
Immersing himself in the remote culture of these islands located halfway between Scotland and Iceland, Kevin perfectly captures the unique hospitality found in these communities.
How do you choose the places you photograph?
There’s no theory behind how I choose places I want to photograph. I heard about the ecovillage of Matavenero through a friend, I discovered professional wrestling in Belgium by a poster in the street, I found the Faroe Islands just by looking at the map. Of course, finding a place is never enough but that’s why I do the research, to find a story.
Do you immerse yourself in the villages you photograph?
Yes, it’s hard for me to take portraits of people and places you don’t know. Portrait sessions usually last an hour, drinking coffee and chatting. Then 10 minutes of making the actual photograph.
In Matavenero before taking the photos I worked on the land, mopped the village bar, dug a new canal and fed the donkeys. I started unpacking my camera only after a week of work. It was the same for my wrestling series ‘Catch.’ I attended a couple of wrestling shows, I talked with wrestlers backstage and got to know them before arriving there with my camera.
For me, it’s very important to show respect and honour to your subject’s lifestyle. I would never want my subjects to feel that I’m voyeuristically taking (weird) pictures of them. I work in a collaborative way. I want the people I photograph to trust me and feel comfortable. In the end I want my subjects to be proud of the final story too.
How would you best describe the Faroe Islands to someone who has never visited?
The Faroe Islands are an absolutely enchanting and moodily beautiful place. Every village is surrounded by a stunning landscape of rocky sea, cliffs and cloud encircled mountains. At first glance all houses seem abandoned and you feel like the only person around for miles. Once you get to know somebody from the village, it doesn’t take long before you get to know the whole village. Most of the people have known each other for their whole lives. One hour after someone’s done something, the whole town knows about it. This has its pros and cons. The Faroese people are proud, friendly, maybe a little bit shy, but that only lasts until you approach them. You get invited in someone’s house easily.
What is one situation or person you met during your time on the Island that has stuck with you?
One in particular is my day with Simun Hanssen, a retired sailor from the island Svínoy, where only 12 people lived when I was there. Since his retirement Simun has been collecting bottles with messages on the shores of the island. Every morning he walks around the island, looking for bottles with a message inside. He’s already found around 60 of them. He showed me some of the bottles and messages. Some were love letters, some were kid’s drawings and some were just random poetry. When there is an address in the message, Simun writes back to them. Once he visited one of the messagers in Norway.
All images taken by Kevin Faingnaert
By Caitlin Hennessy