RISSKOV. A few years back, Aarhus beach fans had a view of an industrial harbour when swimming at the beach ’The Permanent.’ Today their view is that of a new, exclusive neighbourhood Aarhus Ø. The ten largest cities in Denmark are located on the coast, because of the enormous importance historically held by ports. But a hundred years ago, the ports of the cities were exclusively industrial. The water was referred to as dirty, polluted and murky. Only the poorest lived by the harbour, with every window facing inland, because the water was something you made a living from, not something you enjoyed looking at. Today, cranes, containers and shipyards are being replaced by rows of high-rise buildings competing for sea view on the harbour fronts. The water is now referred to as blue, recreational and attractive, and in most large Danish cities new neighbourhoods appear by the ports. Photo: Mathias Svold and Ulrik Hasemann.
STILL PICTURE STORY
by Mathias Svold and Ulrik Hasemann – made as their final BA project in 2017.
In Denmark we never find ourselves farther than 50 kilometers from the ocean and the coastline remains a deeply ingrained part of Danish identity. It is a work place, a sanctuary, a tourist attraction and a political battleground. A scene on which both everyday moments and historical landmark events play out.
COASTLAND is a photographic journey along the coasts of Denmark, depicting life where land meets water and man meets nature. Through the project the photographers show how we have impacted the coastal landscape on every level imaginable for centuries. We have reclaimed land, build groynes and dikes, designed beach parks and interconnected islands by bridges and tunnels.
The coast grants us space for community and reflection and for more than a century, public coastal access has been protected by law. But the threat is omnipresent. The sea mercilessly eats away at the coast, placing houses and fields at risk, while climate-change creates fear of devastating floods and rising water levels. Even today we are unable to control the forces at play.
GULDBORGSUND. Every day, 67 year-old Cextin Jørgensen starts up his boat in the Guldborg harbour to sail to his fish traps. He has 3,000 of them, because it takes a few, as he says. Cextin, along with his son Lasse, is one of few remaining commercial fishermen who still fish the narrow waters between Lolland and Falster. “Agriculture is very hard on the fishing here,” Cextin says, explaining the declining fish population. “Also seals destroy the yarn, and the cormorants eat many fish. And eel quotas are almost gone.” Photo: Mathias Svold and Ulrik Hasemann.
NR. LYNGBY. “This landslide hadn’t happened last Saturday,” says Gunnar and points up the slope. He is a geography teacher from Støvring High School taking his 2.b and 2.c classes on a field trip. They need to learn about coastal formation, which is a highly visible process here at Nr. Lyngby, on the northernmost part of the West Coast. The sea is eating the slopes, and during the last 50 years, almost 50 meters have disappeared. Half the local cemetery has crashed into the sea along with several holiday homes. Photo: Mathias Svold and Ulrik Hasemann.
KÆRGÅRD KLITPLANTAGE. In the dunes at Kærgård, the remains of one of Denmark’s largest chemical pollutions are buried. From 1956 to 1973, the Grindsted Plant dumped nearly 300,000 tons of toxic wastewater from pharmaceutical production, containing chlorinated solvents, cyanide, benzene and mercury, among other things. The soil has been moved and attempted cleaned several times, but there is still pollution from the area seeping out into the North Sea each year, and a swimming ban is enforced along the coast. The authorities are now attempting a new clean-up, which explains why Allan Ravn and Christian Quebec are working in the area wearing protective suits. Following a carefully designed protocol, they pump chemicals into the dunes, which neutralize the toxic substances, and then later add bacteria which will degrade the remaining contaminants. Photo: Mathias Svold and Ulrik Hasemann.
TVERSTED. When the storm Urd hit North Jutland on Boxing Day 2016, the water level rose. The sea reached the old summerhouse ’Åklit’, which has been located in the dunes at Tversted since 1934. It was built before the beach protection line was introduced and therefore has always been uniquely close to the sea. A year before Urd hit, the sea had swallowed the dune in front of the house; a dune dubbed ‘the guardian’ by the owners. When Urd came, the water tore the house off the ground and carried it down the beach where it now rests, decaying. Photo: Mathias Svold and Ulrik Hasemann.
NISSUM FJORD. On the tall dike at Nissum Fjord, six gardeners are digging up European beachgrass. The Latin name of the grass species, Ammophila arenaria, means ’sand lover’, and it grows well in the sand along the West Coast, helping to shape dunes in the process. The gardeners dig up the grass with roots and replant them further along the dike. The European beachgrass grows crosswise through the dunes and the broad straws create shelter, minimizing sand drift. It is a continuous effort against the forces of nature, carried out by the government year after year. If the sand of the dune dike along Nissum Fjord were allowed to blow away, the fjord would subsequently be flooded by the intense waves caused by heavy storms. Photo: Mathias Svold and Ulrik Hasemann.
SKAGEN SØNDERSTRAND. The water is five degrees, the air four. Nevertheless, more than 300 winter swimmers have voluntarily plunged into the Skagen waves. It is the Icebreaker Club, putting on its annual, and always sold out, Winter Swimming Festival. Swim clubs from all over the country gather, each with their own signature identifier. ‘Roskilde Vikingebadere’ (The Roskilde Viking Swimmers) are clad in white robes and orange beanies. Photo: Mathias Svold and Ulrik Hasemann.
SØNDERHO. Daniella and Marcus Flórez Ellendersen are twins, and today they have been confirmed in Sønderho Church. They were the only ones from the town being confirmed, and the priest was their mother. She hails from the Faroe Islands, and their father from Columbia, but the twins were born and raised on Fanø. They both cherish the special island community. “Like in church today, there were almost a hundred people, even though only 60 are attending the party. The others were townsfolk coming to congratulate us,” Marcus says. Although they both love the island, today’s step towards adulthood is also a step closer to the mainland. “I am moving to Esbjerg as soon as I can,” says Daniella. Marcus nods and adds: “But we may return some day. You never know.” Photo: Mathias Svold and Ulrik Hasemann.
VEJLBY KLIT. The waves of the North Sea eat insatiably away at land. Therefore, the Coastal Directorate is extensively adding sand at Vejlby Klit, which is one of the most vulnerable erosion spots. A ship pumps up sand from the seabed through a tube to the coast, where it is sprayed across the beach, increasing its height by 2-3 metres in some places. The sand added to the West Coast by the sand ship in a year, exceeds the equivalent of 85,000 truckloads. In a few years, the process will have to be repeated, when the waves have reclaimed the sand. Photo: Mathias Svold and Ulrik Hasemann.
FREDERIKSHAVN. Not far from Denmark’s northernmost point you’ll find Frederikshavn’s Palm Beach. More than 100 Chinese flax trees and date palms from the Canary Islands are put in the sand each spring after wintering in a greenhouse. The people of Frederikshavn initially met the notion of spending money on palm trees with scepticism, but today the trees are an ingrained part of the city’s image in Denmark and abroad. Not least after the carrier line Stena Line in Sweden ran an ad saying, “In two hours you could be swimming on an exotic palm beach.” Photo: Mathias Svold and Ulrik Hasemann.
SØNDERVIG BEACH. “If Jesus could preach by the sea, so can I,” says Ole Lange. He’s dragging his long, pitch-black cassock across the sand up and down the shoreline. He has arrived ahead of time to collect his thoughts, gazing at the horizon. Ole is the priest of Nysogn Church near Ringkøbing and regularly does church services on the beach during the summer months. He welcomes each attendant with a firm handshake and a “come inside”, referring to a formation of boulders. A group of 45 souls have defied the rain and are now gathering around Ole. No microphone, organ or altar is used, as, according to Ole, the sea is the finest altar in existence. “The meeting with the sea is always the same and is always new. It is infinite and greater than us; like God. Thus it has a religious significance.” After three hymns, a communion and a prayer, the churchgoers observe a minute of silence as they watch the sea together. Photo: Mathias Svold and Ulrik Hasemann.
GRENÅ. They have long since stopped counting the number of ships that have ended their days at the ship-cemetery in Grenå, but it is north of a thousand. Everything from fishing boats to ferries are cut up by five-meter long scissors and turned into tiny iron bits and sold as scrap metal. Fornæs Naval Scrapyard was born in the wake of the fishing industry crisis in the 90s, where many fishermen had to abandon the business and scrap their ships. It became Denmark’s largest of its kind and one of Grenå’s most significant companies. But recent years’ constantly declining scrap prices, as well as competition from scrappers in India, threatens the company with closure, and recently it downsized from 35 employees to 22. Photo: Mathias Svold and Ulrik Hasemann.
BELLEVUE BEACH. The U14 girls from Bogense G&IF have just emerged victoriously by 2-1 from a soccer match with Rudkøbing FC. They celebrate while singing “We Are The Champions” in the sea. Photo: Mathias Svold and Ulrik Hasemann.
RØDHUS BEACH. “It is unbelievable how many places in Denmark you can have undisturbed sex in the wild. You wouldn’t think so,” he says. “It gives you a unique feeling of freedom,” she adds. “In a way, it’s like reconnecting with the mind-set of indigenous people.” Photo: Mathias Svold and Ulrik Hasemann.
RINDBY BEACH. The number of foreign couples who want to marry on the beach has skyrocketed. Today Elaha Kamal and Hamid Ghaussi give each other their ’I do’ with the gentle waves of the North Sea as a backdrop, while the guests happily document every single moment with their iPads, phones and cameras. “When I show the pictures to my friends, they will all want to get married here,” says Hamid. Photo: Mathias Svold and Ulrik Hasemann.
Mathias Svold and Ulrik Hasemann continued the project in 2018 after their graduation and in 2019 they launched the book and exhibition