The Return

It's been a crazy week, to say the least. I'm currently at the Missouri Photo Workshop in Clinton, Missouri, working on their multimedia team to produce stories about the workshop. But the College Photographer of the Year contest entries were also due this week. So I've been revisiting a lot of my old work.

I found these pictures from the trip I took to the Faroe Islands when I did a story about their culture, among other things (y'know, whale hunting). I haven't revisited my take from those two weeks since I edited my story months ago, which is really silly because I edited, wrote and designed that magazine spread in quite a rush. I have never been really happy at all with the edit, but finally decided on an eight-picture edit. And it only took me like, three weeks and a lot of feedback from photographers I respect.

One reason I've never revisited that take is because there are 2,600 pictures from that week. I feel like I definitely overshot (obviously), but I was also shooting a lot of different things. I approached this story with the idea that I would take a bunch of pictures of different aspects of Faroese culture and one or two pictures from each situation would kind of represent what is going on there. So with 200-300 images of each event, with about 8 events total — well, that adds up.

Of course, this is a logical thought process, but isn't really how it all worked out. I thought I went there super prepared — I even packed proper clothing, something I am notorious for not doing. I went with a shot list, multiple connections, a ton of ideas of what to shoot and a good understanding of what it was like to live in this cold, isolated country.

But one reason it's been so hard for me to make an edit is because of the lack of likeness between the pictures. The entire time I was there, I did shoot with a particular style. I want it to look moody, dark, rainy, cold and weird. I shot slow shutter speeds, deep depths of field and back-focused a lot. But one problem I faced was the story that ties the images together. I couldn't just rely on the fact that they were all shot in the Faroe Islands to make the story cohesive.

This story is much more of a photo essay than a photo story, I've discovered. It's about a place — and this place hasn't changed since I've left and it's not a linear sort of thing. It's kind of documentary, but documentaries have a beginning and an end. This is a cyclical story, and the fact that the Faroe Islands never changes is kind of what brought me to my final edit.

These pictures here are not my final edit (see the bottom of this post). These are just some nice images I found while I was going through 2,600 pictures. One is bound to have missed something after going through so many pictures, and I really needed a kind of thesis for my story. I believe I found in a few necessary pictures that ended up in my final edit, plus some other shots I liked as well. That's what blogs are for, I guess.

Although I started out with a National Geographic-esque story about the culture of a weird, isolated country, I edited this much differently now. And I'm more happy with it. I made the story more about the generations of the Faroe Islands and how it is a country much rooted in tradition. Things are slow to change there, mostly because of its isolation from the rest of Europe, but also because the people just embrace tradition. I tried to use pictures to show the progression of passing down Faroese tradition to new generations and how the elderly hope these traditions will be kept in the future.

I put together an impromptu PDF flipbook of the story. It's not design-friendly, but I wanted to display the photos large, consecutively and with captions. I am super happy to be done and mostly happy with this story and hope you all enjoy looking through it.

Saying "Hej Hej" to Denmark: A semester in review

I can't believe it's over. Emily Dickinson

What an amazing semester it has been at the Danish School of Media and Journalism, or Danmarks Journalisthøjskole, in Århus, Denmark. I cannot believe it has come to an end, but then again, all good things must.

Shan Rixon

These last six months have been a crash course in independence and surviving for me. I cannot believe how much I have grown since I have been here, both as a photojournalist and as an individual.

Nathaniel Grann

I never thought that after leaving here, I would've produced stories where I couldn't even speak to my subjects, traveled by my lonesome to a foreign country without speaking the language, and learn how to read a map. Unheard of!

Shan Rixon, Carolina Harkort, Sophie Gost

I never thought I would face my photographic style and ethics like I did here. I didn't ever expect to develop the skills that I did here or come face-to-face with how I am as a photographer as shaped by my background. I believe my style and ethics have changed a lot while I have been here and it will be interesting to come home to see how it will change back in America. And I'm excited for that.

Emily Dickinson, Sophie Gost and Nathaniel Grann

I did expect to meet amazing people, though — and boy, did I ever. My professors, photo 1 classmates, the Danish students and other international students have had such an impact on me. I have learned to communicate cross-culturally and I think that is one of my biggest lessons that I am taking away from this place. I will never forget the people I met here.

Emily Dickinson, Your Rainbow Panorama

I feel like such a new and improved person today after all my experiences in Denmark. I was so insecure upon coming here and was going through a lot of things at home. I was depending much too much on my loved ones and couldn't stand as an individual — but this crash course in cultures and traveling definitely cured that. I have an insane renewed confidence and am ready to conquer any challenge put in front of me, journalistically or otherwise.

Åsa Secher

Now I just feel like I can stand on my own and do anything. I'm going off to Long Island in a week and normally, this would have freaked me out. But after everything I've been through in the last six months, I am more than excited to embrace the challenge.

Emily Dickinson, Damien Currie

I don't feel like I can fully express how much this experience has done for me. I have finally developed a style as a photographer, have increased my self-confidence and just grown as a person. So, please bear with me for the next few weeks as I talk at length about Denmark and how cool Scandinavia is and blah blah blah. But seriously, it's a super cool place.

Shan Rixon, Carolina Harkort

It's good to be back in the U.S., but I will never forget the experiences or the people who made my exchange in Denmark as fantastic as it was. I know I will see all these people again someday — it's unavoidable! — and I cannot wait until that day.

Katie Currid, Your Rainbow Panorama

In the meantime, follow my next adventure as I travel to Long Island next week for an 8-week internship at Newsday. I'll be headed there this weekend via road trip with my sister. Life doesn't stop for this girl, apparently!

The Not-So Deadliest Catch

Almost 80% of the locals in the Faroe Islands are a part of the fishing industry. Fish are the Faroe Island's number one export, so it was only natural that I go out on an excursion with some fishermen, sea-sickness be damned.

I am happy to report that I did not, in fact, get sea sick! I think the men on the boat were worried about me at times, so it was a relief to them, I suppose. I went out with three fishermen and the father from the family that is hosting me while I am in Klaksvík, Jóannes.

Klaksvík is the biggest fishing village in the Faroe Islands and the second largest town in the country with around 5,000 people. People who belong to the fishing industry vary greatly in the types of jobs they have. Some are executive jobs, some are quality control jobs, and some are the "dirty jobs" — those actually out on the boats, dealing with the fish.

There are humongous fish farms in the Faroe Islands. There is one in Klaksvík for salmon that features 1.3 million fish! The company, Bakkafrost, exports the fish to the U.S., Russia, Poland and China. Another common way to fish involves large fishing vessels, sometimes owned locally and some from other countries like the Netherlands or Denmark, who go out with crews of 30-80 people. They fish for longer periods of time and also go on farther trips. Some trips are local, around the Faroe Islands, and some go much farther, such as up to Greenland or south to Mauritania. The trips can vary from two weeks to over three months.

I went out on a private fishing boat with three other fishermen and the father from the family that is so kindly letting me stay with them in Klaksvík (and spoiling me with amazing food!). The main purpose of the day was to collect bait for fishing at a later point: snails. Private fishing boats usually only go out on daily trips and even then, only when the weather is good.

We went out for around four hours. Josias, the man who was leading the fishing trip, said it usually takes him a lot longer because he is typically by his lonesome, but today he had three hands on deck to help out. The men alternated filling buckets with bait — fish heads — for the snails. Then, they would also pull up lines they had laid the week before. The boat was crawling with hermit crabs, urchins, snails and the occasional starfish.

Lastly, the boat pulled up a line of bait — called a stamp — that they had laid out to catch fish at the beginning of the excursion. At first it really didn't look too promising — about the first half of the line had no fish! But soon, the fish started flowing in and I think he ended up catching about 10 fish, all varied in types and sizes. Josias only expected to catch two or three, so I suppose we were fortunate!

There was everything from cod to haddock to the incredibly mean and ugly wolf fish. At the end of the trip, Josias surprisingly gave me and the family I'm staying with all of the fish! I'm not sure why, but I was super happy. I suppose his main goal of the day was for bait and he probably has enough fish at home as a fisher himself. I don't typically eat fish at home in the states, but fresh fish sure does make a difference (because fresh fish doesn't exactly exist when you don't live near the ocean). But I'm in love with Faroese fish! So delicious.

That night, Jóannes taught me how to filet and we fried up the wolf fish. And then Juliana made up frikadeller with the rest of the cod and haddock — a type of fish ball. The wolf fish was amazing, even if it was ugly, and the fish balls weren't too bad either. I have been eating way too well here in the Faroe Islands, though — it will be sad when I go back to Denmark and have to resort to skillet quesadillas and Ramen noodles again!

Tomorrow I will return to Denmark to finish the edit on my final project about the culture of the Faroe Islands. My deadline is Friday morning and then I have until Wednesday to say goodbye to all of my lovely international friends.

Whale Hunting: A cultural tradition

In the Faroe Islands. Whale hunt happened yesterday. Just another day, huh?

whale hunting denmark

This week and next week, I am in the Faroe Islands to shoot my last project for the Danish School of Media and Journalism.

whale killed denmark

Where are the Faroe Islands, you ask? They are a territory of Denmark and are located between Iceland and Ireland. Don’t whip out your globe just yet, though — the area is pretty small and almost impossible to spot on a large map. Around 50,000 people live here.

whale hunt denmark

And why the Faroe Islands? I was initially inspired to come to the Faroe Islands for a few reasons. I met a nice student in Denmark at the collegiate where I live named Martin and him and I had quite a lot of talks about the Faroe Islands, where he is from. Also, I knew the Faroe Islands were one of the few places in the world where they still hunted whale, a process called the grindadráp, and was immensely interested in this event.

faroe islands whale hunt

The grindadráp is a non-commercial whale hunt in the Faroe Islands. The animals themselves are not actually “hunted” — as in, the Faroese do not go out on boats and seek them. A local will spot the whales from the shore, usually traveling in a large group, and will notify the harbor’s grindaformenn, the men in charge of organizing the grind.

whale hunt faroe islands

From there, the hunters will go out on boats and form a semi-circle around the whales, herding them in closer to the shore. The shore must be shallow, as deep beaches make it more difficult to kill the whales, and therefore more painful for the animals themselves.

Once they are closer to shore, the hunters attempt to kill the whales as quickly and painlessly as possible — the process they used to be killed was quite brutal, as they would stab the animal many times. But not only was that a cruel way to kill the animal, it also damaged the meat. Now, the process of the actual killing takes about twenty minutes total. The animal's spinal cord is severed with a hook, killing it instantly — much like a chicken's neck is wrung during a culling.

whale hunting faroe islands

Although the actual grindadráp takes about twenty minutes, the entire day is spent dividing the meat, cutting it up and distributing it amongst the Faroese. During the one I witnessed, the actual killing took place at 10 a.m. and the cutting of the meat didn't even start until 6 p.m. And from there, we didn't leave until around midnight.

killing whales faroe islands

There is a hierarchical system of how the meat is divided, as I understand. The individual who first spotted the whales typically gets an entire whale for his or her family. Then, each individual who takes part in the actual killing gets a good share of the meat. After that, each resident of the village in which the grindadráp occurs receives a share of the whale killing. Sometimes, this can be a lot of meat and sometimes it is not as much, depending on the size of the kill.

killing whales faroe islands

The grindadráp I witnessed had 204 whales — which is a ton. About 1,000 whales are hunted in the Faroe each year, typically in the summer months, but most hunts consist of 40-50 whales.

whale hunt faroe islands

I cannot stress how amazing an experience it was to witness the grindadráp. Although the practice has come over quite a bit of controversy, especially from Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd, I do not think the Faroese get to share their side of what an important cultural and social even it is to them.

denmark whale hunt

The Faroese really, truly try to get the hunt over with as quickly as possible. Also, many may criticize the killing, comparing it to Japan’s whaling industry (see: "The Cove"), but the grindadráp is not industrialized. It is illegal to sell the meat — it is divided between those who participate in the grind and then the leftover meat is given to whomever wants it, and is also distributed to nursing homes, hospitals and the hungry on the islands. Once all the salvageable and edible meat is obtained from the animal, its carcass is placed at the bottom of the ocean, where other animals and fish will feed off of it — I think that's kind of neat, like the circle of life. It's not thrown somewhere and burned or filling up a landfill.

dolphin killing

The grindadráp used to occur out of great necessity. The islands themselves have harsh land, harsh climates and are not at all sustainable for farmland or livestock. The only thing that is farmed on the Faroe Islands is sheep — trees cannot even grow on the islands. Rhubarb can be farmed, and fishing is a big deal, but if one wants to have cows, they have to be kept in a barn 24/7, which can be costly and not provide much room (not to mention be uncomfortable for the animal.) Before the industrial revolution, the people of the Faroe depended on the grind, in addition to sheep and fish, as a source of food.

faroe islands whale hunt

Today, because the cause meat and other food products, such as vegetables, can be shipped from mainland Europe, the grindadráp serves as a huge reminder of Faroese culture and a reminder of what sacrifice animals give to provide sustenance for humans. Literally everyone in the surrounding villages comes down to take part in the process of the grind, whether it is cutting up meat or counting whales or just bringing coffee to help the workers stay warm. It is an immense social event and brings many people together who may not have known each other otherwise.

faroe islands whale hunt

I don’t want to write too much because I'm only halfway through my story, but I did not want to post pictures of such as controversial subject without providing some context. I’m sure Greenpeace and other environmental organizations have stances on the matter, and I will not reveal what I feel about the grindadráp, but I think many people do not get to hear about how the actual process goes down. There is a lot of information out there, but much of it seems to be one-sided.

faroe islands at night

I will be spending the remainder of my two weeks for my final project capturing Faroese culture — that is the basis of my story. This week, I will venture down to local knitting shops to photograph the very traditional Faroese sweaters, will hopefully spend some time with some fishermen and sheep farmers and will also head to church, as the Faroe Islands are quite a religious place. The grindadráp will only serve as a small portion of my story, but it is really a huge part of Faroese culture that cannot be ignored.

Update: If you would like to see my final story, which is not just about the whale hunt but of the Faroe Islands as a culture, you can view it here.

All photographs are copyright Katie Currid © 2011 and may not be reproduced or reprinted without permission. All rights reserved.

Limitless

If there is one thing I've never been completely comfortable with, it's probably multimedia. But after this amazing week with the Bombay Flying Club, I can now say that I think that has changed — and thank goodness!

What a great week it has been. For the past three weeks, we've had our workshop with the Bombay Flying Club. I've learned so much about how to storyboard a multimedia story, how to plan for it, how to deal with audio and creative commons licenses and subjects and different equipment. The BFC was really inspiring in our first week with them — I have such a renewed sense of multimedia and it's no longer one of those things that I have to do because I'm in this industry — I think now I will look forward to it, with this new inspiration!

Our story is about the Aarhus Parkour group. It was really not easy to shoot, with all the action and climbing on rooftops and such! But it was so inspiring to work with Jim Hougaard, our subject. He really sees the world differently because of parkour, but that really helped in our story in the end because we could channel his crazy positive energy into the story.

Feedback on this story would be great. I am not as afraid this summer to go to my multimedia internship at Newsday on Long Island — although that will also include shooting stills, I expect to do a lot more multimedia. And Final Cut Express is no longer a big scary beast for me.

Special thanks to Poul Madsen and Henrik Kastenskov from the BFC for all the great inspiration and help on this story. Also, to Jim, Joe and all the other guys at Aarhus Parkour for putting up with our nerdiness with audio and video and for not being afraid to do flips over us with all of our gear.