Exposure

Life on Some of the Most Remote Islands on Earth

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Photo: Kevin Faingnaert
There’s a set of islands in the middle of the chilly North Atlantic, some of which are so sparsely populated that the residents wouldn’t even fill a classroom. The Faroe Islands, an archipelago comprising 18 islands halfway between Scotland and Iceland, make up in an eclectic culture and stunning views what it lacks in population size.

The villages on the smallest and toughest islands have seen a sharp decline in population over time. In a lot of villages, half of the houses stand empty. The Faroese are constantly moving away from the smallest villages, settling in the bigger, main villages. Young Faroese people move abroad—mainly to Denmark, to travel or to pursue a higher education, and mostly they don’t return to their hometown afterwards.

I spent a month on the Faroe Islands last February. My goal was to visit and document life in these incredibly quiet, remote villages. The resulting series is called Føroyar, which is the name of the country in Faroese—a language that is spoken in the world mostly by people living on the islands, or who have moved elsewhere from the islands.

Photo: Children playing soccer in the village of Nes on Eysturoy Island. Population: 29.

Photo: Kevin Faingnaert
Mykines, the westernmost of the 18 islands of the Faroe Archipelago. Population: 10.
Photo: Kevin Faingnaert
View of Gásadalur village next to the Atlantic Ocean. Population: 16.
Photo: Kevin Faingnaert
A house in the village of Gásadalur on Vagar Island.
Photo: Kevin Faingnaert
Simún Jacobsen playing trombone on the beach of Sandavágur on Vagar Island.
Photo: Kevin Faingnaert
Famous artist and adventurer, Trondur Patursson, in Kirkjabøur on Streymoy Island. Trondur is known around the islands for his glass birds, which you can see everywhere from town halls to people's living rooms. In 1976 Trondur sailed a transatlantic voyage in a replica 6th century leather-hulled ship.
Photo: Kevin Faingnaert
These Faroese knives are used for pilot whale hunting. During a grind (or pilot whale hunt), a flotilla of small boats drives whales into a shallow bay where they can be easily killed with knives. Grinds are the longest continuously practiced and relatively unchanged tradition in the Faroe Islands.
Photo: Kevin Faingnaert
Simun Hanssen in Svínoy village. Population: 22. Simun is a retired sailor who collects messages in bottles on the shores of Svinoy Islands as a hobby. So far, Simun has already collected around 70 stranded bottled with messages, mostly coming from Canada.
Photo: Kevin Faingnaert
Church of Kirkja on Fugloy Island. Population: 9.
Photo: Kevin Faingnaert
Hanse Heinesen getting ready for prayer in the church of Tjørnuvik. Many villages have their own churches. Most of them have a lovely, wooden interior and host up to 40 people.
Photo: Kevin Faingnaert
A sea-filled gorge near the village of Gjógv on Eysturoy island.
Photo: Kevin Faingnaert
A typical wooden, black house in Kollafjørður on Streymoy island.
Photo: Kevin Faingnaert
Sigurd Nordendal sits on his grass roof in Bøur on Vágar island. Grass roofs can be seen in many places in the Faroe Islands. They absorb rainwater, provide insulation and contribute to an aesthetically pleasing landscape.
Photo: Kevin Faingnaert
A stuffed storm petrel by Jens-Kjeld Jensen on Nolsoy Island. A storm petrel colony near Nolsoy village is claimed to be the world's biggest.
Photo: Kevin Faingnaert
The village of Bøur on Vágar island with a view Tindhólmur and Gáshólmur. Population: 60.
Photo: Kevin Faingnaert

Joan Hendrick, author of the first Faroese dictionary, looks out at the Atlantic from his house in Kirkjabøur, Faroe Islands.

These images will appear in the book Føroyar, out this May.

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