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Atlantic Cowboy - Signed

Atlantic Cowboy - Signed

by Andrea Gjestvang

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Photographer Andrea Gjestvang journeyed to the Faroe Islands to document the impact of a shortage of women on the territory. Her project, created over 6-years, depicts the traditional man — the Atlantic Cowboy — and the geographical and social periphery he inhabits.

More about this book

The Faroe Islands, a territory of the Kingdom of Denmark, are located 320 kilometers north-northwest of Scotland, and about halfway between Norway and Iceland. The landscape is as breath-taking as it is harsh. Fishing is the main industry of the territory and although it has modernised in many ways, it is still an industry bound by tradition and mainly run by men. Whilst the men go to sea, the young women are drawn abroad for study or training in Copenhagen or other European cities. More than half of those who leave never return and as a result the population of 54,000 has a gender deficit of around 2000 women — the deficit is 10% among women of reproductive age.

Gjestvang was intrigued by how the demographic trend had challenged and changed both Faroese society and the men who chose to stay — this became the backbone of her project. She was curious about the lives of unmarried men in small communities where the impact was most pronounced. Although the project focuses on the Faroe Islands, the trend is symptomatic of what is happening across many other rural areas of Europe and across the world. Atlantic Cowboy provides an insight into how traditional male roles and identity are being challenged by modern society.

The photographs in the book depict the vastness of the land, sky and seascape against which the human presence in dwarfed. They show the domestic interiors and family units, birds being processed and sheep being slaughtered, social celebrations, men at sea, hot tubs and hours of physical graft. These details reveal the harshness of life in the territory alongside steadfast endurance, companionship and community.

'Man was, so to speak, too important and irreplaceable in the role of the ‘hunter’ struggling for the survival of his family and community to be assigned a special position at home. He was a fisher, a whaler, a fowler, a beachcomber, a sheep-breeder, a harvester, a boat builder, a storyteller and many more things at the same time. His performance was not a manifestation of masculinity, but rather an element of the unpretentious way of the islanders of the North…Now, I can just affirm that present-day Faroese…is very different from the society of the late twentieth century. It is not easy to lead the slow and simple way of life of the villages anymore. Things are getting more complex and unpredictable. The ‘pliable men’ are adapting to new societal demands and expectations, but not without resistance.' - Firouz Gaini, Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of the Faroe Islands

Published March 2023
Essay by Firouz Gaini
300 x 220mm
144pp, 82 images
ISBN 978-1-910401-91-0

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  • 'The innate connection between Faroese people and their surroundings is woven through Gjestvang’s new book... Portraits appear alongside dramatic landscape shots that reiterate the Faroes’ harsh conditions and remoteness of settlements dwarfed by neighboring mountains.'

    - CNN

  • Andrea Gjestvang is a photographer based between Oslo and Berlin. In 2012 she finished the project ‘One Day in History’ with portraits of the young survivors of the 22 July 2011 terror attack at Utøya island, Norway. The project gained international recognition, exhibitions and awards, including the prestigious L'Iris d'Or/Sony World Photography Awards Photographer of the Year 2013. After graduating from OsloMet, Gjestvang has worked on assignment and published work in international publications such as Time Magazine, The New York Times, Stern, Newsweek Japan, M Le Monde and Mare magazine, amongst others. Her work has been exhibited in galleries and museums including Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing, Munchen Stadtmuseum and The National Photographic Museum of Colombia. Gjestvang is a member of Panos Pictures.