the birth of a nameless island

Aerial photographs (1943 – 2013), courtesy of the Royal Danish Library, Copenhagen, Denmark.

C-prints mounted on MDF, oil paint
20@ 21 cm x 14.8 cm

I visited the sprightly manager of the cartographic archive on the top floor of the Royal Library in Copenhagen, housed in a building called Den Sorte Diamant – The Black Diamond. I inquired about islands that may be depicted in old maps but no longer exist, or islands that are nowhere to be found in the library collection because they were born in the 1990s or later. He gave a friendly huff of disbelief, and then together we referred to a digital archive of aerial photographs taken during the last century. I wanted to find the moment when my island, the nameless one that lolls near the shore of the Odense Fjord, appeared.

These images were taken as a collection of fragments of various larger projects to document the territories of Europe. Some were taken by the Germans in the 1940s, some taken by the Americans during the Cold War, presumably as an automatic shutter function, and who knows if any of the passengers involved happened to glance down through the otherwise “blind” lens or air to see the particular fraction of a square acre I was interested in.

The island isn't yet visible in any of the images taken in the 20th century, and then there's a decade of photos between 1993 and 2003 wherein they didn't bother to photograph so far offshore, so there's an abruptly placed swatch of generic cyber blue covering the water and the inchoate island that would be there. Then an aerial photo from 2004 lifts the 10-year veil (as that area must have been deemed worthy to shoot again?), and so a sand mound is suddenly visible in what looks like a hesitant materialization between land and sea.

After some years, the island starts to come into its own and becomes more convincing as an autonomous piece of sturdy land, no longer at risk of being pulled under or plunging back into its old aqueous habits. Plant life can be seen from above. Who knows if anyone has ever really noticed this or that photo frame. I wonder if anyone has since looked at this particular lump of land, benignly breaching the sea.
1945 1954.jpg
1954 1963-1965.jpg
1963-1965 1968-1972.jpg
1968-1972 1977.jpg
1977 1981-1983.jpg
1981-1983 1986-1988.jpg
1986-1988 1992.jpg
1992 1995 juni.jpg
1995 1999 juni.jpg
1999 2002 juni.jpg
2002 2004 juni.jpg
2004 2006 juni.jpg
2006 2007 april-maj.jpg
2007 2008 maj.jpg
2008 2009 april-maj.jpg
2009 2010 april.jpg
2010 2011 april.jpg
2011 2012 maj.jpg
2012 2013 maj.jpg