Photographer Andrea Gjestvang’s portrait of life within the male-dominated Faroe Islands Lalrp

Written by Oscar Holland,

In her hanging pictures of the Faroe Islands, a distant archipelago between Iceland and her native Norway, photographer Andrea Gjestvang depicts islanders and livelihoods which might be as powerful and unforgiving because the windswept panorama.

Fishing trawlers journey by means of frigid seas. Clouds roll over craggy mountains and cliffside villages. Garments and boots are stained with the blood of slaughtered livestock and marine animals. Effectively-used instruments cling from the partitions of conventional picket buildings.

The innate connection between Faroese individuals and their environment is woven by means of Gjestvang’s new book in regards to the islands, “Atlantic Cowboy.” Portraits seem alongside dramatic panorama pictures that reiterate the Faroes’ harsh circumstances and remoteness of settlements dwarfed by neighboring mountains.

“I am not a panorama photographer however, similar to after I painting individuals, after I {photograph} a panorama, I search for temper,” Gjestvang mentioned throughout a video interview. “I attempt to consider the panorama as additionally form of a portrait, or one thing that specific emotions, in some way.”

Gjestvang’s images additionally reveal one other difficult facet of life within the Faroes, which can have been first inhabited by Irish monks within the sixth century: Her topics are nearly completely male.

Faroe Islander Hjalmar is pictured whereas slaughtering sheep on a farm within the village of Kaldbaksbotnur. Credit score: Andrea Gjestvang/GOST Books

Although a lot of the Faroese economic system revolves round bodily demanding jobs historically taken by males — the islands’ fishing trade alone employs 15% of the workforce. Visiting a number of instances yearly over the course of six years, Gjestvang educated her lens on the lives and communities of the islands’ single males. They’re proven plucking seabirds’ feathers, tending to goats or hauling the carcasses of a slaughtered pilot whales to shore. (Whale meat was as soon as an essential a part of the Faroese weight-reduction plan, although the nation’s controversial whale and dolphin hunts now spark world outrage.)

Younger ladies, in the meantime, usually select to check or work in Copenhagen (the Faroe Islands are a part of the Kingdom of Denmark) or elsewhere in Europe.

Many by no means return, Gjestvang discovered. In keeping with World Financial institution data, simply 48.2% of the self-governing nation’s inhabitants in 2021 was feminine, placing it among the many most gender-imbalanced locations in Europe. This equates to over 107 males for each 100 ladies, or a deficit of roughly 2,000 females.

Gjestvang additionally captured the rugged geography of the Faroe Islands. Credit score: Andrea Gjestvang/GOST Books

This quantity might not appear big, however with the 17 inhabited islands solely dwelling to round 53,000 individuals — and the gender hole extra pronounced amongst youthful adults — it poses important societal implications. Faroese Prime Minister Aksel V. Johannesen mentioned “skewed gender demographics” have been amongst his authorities’s “best challenges” upon first taking workplace in 2015.

For Gjestvang, this dynamic provided an “an fascinating alternative to do a challenge on males,” she mentioned. “As a feminine photographer, I get commissioned rather a lot to do ladies’s well being tales, and ladies’s points — that are crucial — however I used to be curious to show my digital camera in a special course.”

Evolving masculinity

Financial prospects for Faroese ladies now look rosier than within the Nineteen Nineties, when hundreds of individuals left the amid an financial collapse brought on, partly, by shrinking fish shares. Boosted by a rising tourism and repair sectors, the GDP per capita has tripled since 2000 and is now on par with that of the USA.
The nation’s authorities has lately invested in gender equality and employment initiatives within the hope of constructing the islands extra interesting to ladies. “They’ve tried to make it barely simpler to be a single mom,” Gjestvang added, citing expanded choices on the capital’s college and elevated acceptance of distant working because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

A carpentry workshop within the capital Tórshavn. Credit score: Andrea Gjestvang/GOST Books

The photographer mentioned the dearth of ladies was not evident within the Faroese capital, Tórshavn, although it grew to become “fairly seen” when touring to smaller villages. The social lives of those coastal communities usually revolve round harbors, and he or she frolicked visiting the casual assembly locations the place males “hang around, have beers and discuss.”

However Gjestvang’s delicate portraits additionally supply a candid snapshot of males in their very own houses. A number of are captured sitting or mendacity alone on sofas, whereas others are pictured with pets or feminine kinfolk. In accompanying interviews, a few of which in her e-book, her topics opened up in regards to the realities of life in a male-dominated society. “I pray to God that I’ll discover a spouse,” one single man informed her. “However possibly he would not hear me.”

The photographer believes, nevertheless, that a lot of the males she documented weren’t lonely — thanks, partly, to the close-knit nature of Faroese households. As one 40-year-old informed her: “Sturdy household ties turn into a substitute. I have already got a household myself, though I haven’t got a spouse and youngsters. When you could have an prolonged, close-knit household, you could have the liberty to be your self and discover peace with that.”

“One man I interviewed informed me that the Faroe Islands is the proper playground for males,” the photographer added, explaining her e-book’s title. (“Atlantic Cowboy” is a time period borrowed from a 1997 e-book of the identical title and later utilized by Firouz Gaini, a professor of anthropology on the College of the Faroe Islands who has studied the nation’s gender dynamics and wrote a foreword for Gjestvang.)

“It is a spot the place you may and fish and be outside and the liberty is limitless, in some way,” Gjestvang mentioned.

Faroe Islander Fróði rests on the carcass of a pilot whale after a “grindadráp,” or whale hunt, a controversial custom that always sparks world outrage. Credit score: Andrea Gjestvang/GOST Books

A long time of lop-sided demographics have in the meantime contributed to a nationwide id that continues to rejoice virtues of energy and fortitude, the photographer added.

“To be sturdy, and to supply for your self and your loved ones has been an essential worth,” she mentioned. “The thought of the sturdy man may be very current, and you may see it … This sort of masculinity has gained lots of respect, and has been sought-after.

“I feel this has, after all, affected society, though I’ll say that Faroese ladies are additionally very sturdy — they’re powerful, too.”

Atlantic Cowboy,” revealed Gost Books, is accessible now.