Utøya: after the massacre
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In the aftermath of the Utøya island shooting in Norway in November 2011, Andrea Gjestvang began taking portraits of its young survivors. Her pictures won her the top prize at the Sony World Photography awards
Eirin Kristin Kjær was shot four times in the midriff at close range just after 5.30pm. Anders Breivik, the shooter, had used hollow-tipped bullets designed to cause large exit wounds and maximum injury as he picked his way across the island of Utøya, executing anyone he found. One of the first to be shot, Kjær sat down by the shore and waited to die. “I was certain I would bleed to death,” she says. “Or that he would return and shoot me.”
Seventy-seven were killed by Breivik on 22 July 2011 in his rampage against the youth wing of the Labour party. But what of the 517 people on the island who somehow, often through sheer luck, survived?
Their stories have now been captured by Andrea Gjestvang in her portrait series, One Day in History. The 31-year-old, named Photographer of the Year at last week’s Sony World Photography awards, where she took the L’Iris D’Or prize, has spent six months documenting the rehabilitation of the youngsters who witnessed Breivik’s methodical killing spree and who were then expected to carry on with their lives. Some had hidden in the forest; others tried swimming to safety. “I wanted to find out how they had changed, how their lives had changed,” she says. “I wanted to try and found out what this did to them.”
Many survivors told her they had made the transition from adolescent to adult during the time of the massacre, as witnessed in her pictures. By the time Breivik stopped shooting, they were different people. And while some said they had emerged from the experience stronger, many others have been left with a sense of the futility of life. Then there is the fear of being shot, even as they return to their usual routines. “They have constant nightmares. They have lost friends, siblings, boyfriends, girlfriends,” says Gjestvang. “Some were very sad. They had a gravity that doesn’t really belong to a young person.”
Kjær has made a remarkable physical recovery – she plays sports, including kickboxing, and is studying political theory at university. The sheer magnitude of the horror, she says, made it impossible to process mentally. “Sometimes it bothers me that I can be so functional, like everybody else. This happened to me and I’m just like any other 21-year-old girl.” Even when she recalls the moments Breivik shot her, the memory is shorn of trauma. “It’s like a movie. I see all the faces, the blood, the injuries, but I cannot connect with it emotionally. I don’t understand that it is what happened to me.”
Gjestvang herself felt emotionally shattered after picturing each survivor, and found the project “very challenging”. Born outside Oslo, she says the massacre at Utøya felt like a personal attack, a sentiment shared by most Norwegians. She hopes her series of photographs will prove cathartic to those who survived.
Others who witnessed the atrocities of Utøya aim to ensure the hatred that drove Breivik is vanquished. Kjær dreams one day of becoming a politician with the Labour party. “I want to take the politics from words and put them into action.” One Day in History is on show as part of the 2013 Sony World Photography Awards exhibition at Somerset House until 12 May (somersethouse.org.uk)
via Art and design: Photography | guardian.co.uk http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2013/apr/28/utoya-after-the-massacre-photographs Thanks for reading Jay
Posted on April 28, 2013, in Photography News and tagged Art and design: Photography | guardian.co.uk, arts, guardian, IFTTT, info, information, journal, news, newspaper, photo, photography. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.