What Remains – Lydia Hansen

I was born in 1992 on the Faroe Islands and grew up in a small village with roughly fifty inhabitants. In 2013 I moved to Copenhagen for studies and in 2016 I landed in Berlin where I am currently based. Next year, I will be graduating a Master’s degree in photography and I plan to stay in Berlin and work as a freelance photographer, travelling between here and the Faroe Islands for client work.

What’s your story?

Growing up in such an isolated environment has shaped me into the artist I am.

Art was very important for me as a child and I would spend hours drawing and painting. Coming from a country with such long and harsh winters, picking up a hobby was important for making time pass. For me this was drawing and later, at the age of fourteen, I received my very first camera. This is where my photographic journey began.

The first instinct was to document everything around me, and later this shifted over to portrait and fashion photography. In 2019, I returned to being more focused on photographing my environment.

Storytelling became very important to me and I wanted to visually share stories from my life, how it is to grow up on an isolated country like the Faroe Islands. With the situation we are in today, in this pandemic, this topic of isolation all of a sudden became something we all had to deal with in different ways.

Let’s talk about ‘What Remains’. What was your motivation behind making the work?

This on-going series is based on memories. It all began in 2018 where I did a fashion editorial named ‘Home’, which was based in the village I grew up. I styled the model Barbara Pearce in pieces from my wardrobe, so she was depicted as a representation of myself.

The photograph of Barbara, the red girl in the shattered mirrors, later became a part of this project. In the summer of 2019 I began to photograph these places around me which connected to personal memories. To start with I focused on the village I grew up in and gradually I travelled across the islands and marked off the places on a map.

Many of the places I decided to photograph were old and abandoned buildings, which I am fascinated by. There is something intriguing about these places that have been left to decay. Objects and buildings remain in their places until they slowly disintegrate into nature.

Were there any moments or experiences that stood out to you?

Working on this project was a therapeutic experience. Since I was documenting the surroundings, it allowed me to not think about staging the photograph, which is what I usually do when I photograph.

Everything I wanted to photograph was right in front of me; I just had to look for the right frame. I got to experience my home country in different perspectives – sailing into small caves where the sun cannot reach and seeing all these vibrant colours was really spectacular, something that you would not be able to see unless you seek it out.

Do you find that growing up somewhere like the Faroe Islands affects the way you photograph, the way you “see”?

I am used to seeing these dramatic landscapes from the windows of my childhood home. Whirlwinds rushing across the open sea.

The deep blue colour which often appears in my work is inspired by the blue hour in the winter. I grab every possibility to photograph within this short time frame where the colours are painterly blue and, only a few moments later, everything is complete darkness.

Living in Berlin has changed my perspective on seeing. Travelling in between these two places is such a harsh contrast. I appreciate the rough city life and being anonymous on the streets of Berlin. Quite the opposite happens when I am on the Faroe Islands, where familiar faces are everywhere. When I am on the islands, I realise how much we take for granted the surroundings we have up there.

It is amusing to see how differently my friends and family view the spectacular nature in comparison to what visitors see. You become so easily adjusted to everything that surrounds you.

What are you recommending?

At the beginning of quarantine, I was introduced to the band Christine and the Queens and have especially been listening to their EP ‘La Vita Nuova’. It was released earlier this year with a short film, beautifully produced in extravagant locations in Paris.

Lately I have also been listening to Grimes, FKA twigs and some 90s grunge bands like Nirvana.

Finally, tell us about a piece of art that has influenced you.

The piece of art that comes to my mind is this painting, ‘Home from the funeral’ (1936) by the Faroese artist Sámal Joensen-Mikines. It is on display in the National Gallery of the Faroe Islands. The eeriness of this painting strikes me every time I sit in front of it.

lydiahansen.com / instagram.com/lydiaahansen