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Sea Change

Young Europeans and increasing social inequality: Talking about the photo project »Sea Change – A new Europe« with its journalistic director Harald Birkevold


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During the last two years 13 leading European Photographers have taken more than 2500 photos of young Europeans in European countries. What has been documented and shown in an exhibition »Sea Change – A new Europe« in 80 selected photographies is the life of young Europeans.

How are young people affected by he ongoing economic crisis, and what reality are we faced with in these photos? These Questions form the basis of the documentary photography project Sea Change. Displayed first time in January 2015 in the House of Literature in Oslo, Norway. Since then the exhibition is on tour.

Studying these pictures, I look into the eyes of a generation who is nobody’s fool. A generation hard-boiled, but unfocused, vulnerably making its way in today’s world. These young people are linked through communities, parties, often with techno music as an expression of their will to live, and through nature. I see a generation living here and now. The future offers innumerable alternatives or none. All or nothing. Profession as a calling does not exist in these pictures, but there seems to be the need for belonging. In between there is romance, sometimes determination. For example the one with the clown.

I talked to the journalistic director Harald Birkevold (also journalist at the Norwegian daily Stavanger Aftenblad) when we met again at the Kapittel Festival in Stavanger in September 2015. He was kind enough to let me read from my book in context of Sea Change. In Stavanger it was already the second time since I had the honour to also be part of the opening in January 2015 at the Litteraturhuset in Oslo.

UZ: What is the meaning behind the title »Sea Change«?

Harald Birkevold: The name Sea Change comes from William Shakespeare (The Tempest), where it is used in a poem about a man who has drowned.

»Full fathom five thy father lies
Of is bones are coral made
Those are pearls that were his eyes
Nothing of him that doth fade
But doth suffer a sea change
Into something rich and strange«

Today, the expression »sea change« means a transformation, a fundamental change. We thought it was fitting in connection with the transformation that is going on in Europe at the moment. Also, it is word play.

UZ: There is one picture in the exhibition, showing a German Clown. It is a photo taken by Fabian Weiss. Can you tell me what is special about the clown?

Close to Jüchen, North Rhine-Westphalia. A Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown at a demonstration against the extension of the coal mine 'Garzweiler' near Cologne. The program includes the resettlement of several small towns. German youth has been very active in the environmentalist movement since its very beginning and there are several radical groups blocking baggers and stopping nuclear transports. Others are jumping onto the train and just enjoying the temporary disobedience.
Copyright by Fabian Weiss: Close to Jüchen, North Rhine-Westphalia. A Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown at a demonstration against the extension of the coal mine ‚Garzweiler‘ near Cologne.

HB: The clown is an activist. He dresses up like that to prevent violence between police and demonstrators. No-one hits a clown, right? So he just stands between the police and the demonstrators. Problem solved!

UZ: You, that means you and the photo director Jocelyn Bain Hogg, are also offering photo workshops along with the exhibition. How do these work?

HB: It is our ambition to conduct workshops in every city, working with young people. Our target group is 16 to 26. The purpose of the workshops is to connect with the target group and to offer the students an opportunity to work with experienced documentary photographers for an intensive two-day period. We then select images from the workshop and present them as a book, made by our designer Mark Watkins. In effect, they make a local »Sea Change« documentary in just two days. It is fun and very interesting.

UZ: What do they learn in two days?

HB: Young people today have such an extensive knowledge of visual images. They are everywhere, right? But what makes a good picture in the age of the selfie? We have just one rule for the workshops: No selfies! Themes are for example: How to approach strangers for picture taking, how to frame and select, learn to take lots of pictures, most amateurs take way too few.

UZ: What equipment do I need to participate?

HB: Whatever equipment you have. They use phones, compacts or SLR’s. Our participants work alone or in groups, unsupervised. They get ›assignments‹ before they leave to take pictures. »A day in my life«, »My family«, »people on buses«, to name some examples.

UZ: Where is the exhibition going next?

HB: Next stop is Vienna, then it is Salzburg, Malta, Portugal, Iceland, Latvia and so on. It will continue traveling in Europe for all of 2016, and also some way into 2017.

UZ: If I would like to invite Sea Change to my hometown, what do I have to do?

HB: We are gladly adding new exhibitors if you like us to come to your town:

1. Find out if there is an exhibition space with room for about 80 pictures. We can be flexible, if there is no space we can do a slide show, but an exhibition is best.

2. Find out if there is a budget for a workshop. If not, ok, but we would really like to do that also.

3. We are NOT expensive, but one or two teachers will need transportation, somewhere to stay and a small fee (around 300 Euros for two days, but negotiable).

4. Is there a photo class in a school nearby? Or another group of potential workshop students?

5. Then email me or the Oslo House of Literature at www.projectseachange.com or post@litteraturhuset.no. We Would love to come to Germany again. Berlin was fun, but we want more!

You will find more Information about Sea Change here: www.projectseachange.com or at facebook.com/projectseachange

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