Gabriel Nivera

Pictures & Conversations

A collection of images and the stories behind their creation.


Saksun, Faroe Islands

There are certain sights that are synonymous with the Faroe Islands.  The puffins of Mykines, the cliffside lake of Sørvágsvatn, the waterfall at Gásadalur, and the cabin at Saksun.  Seeing these places were on my list but they were not  a high priority because I wanted to focus on spending my time showing parts of the Faroe Islands less known.  However on our 4th day on the islands we had a free evening and decided to drive to Saksun to photograph the cabin at sunset.  As we drove past the church and pulled up to road we hit a dead end.  The road ended  at a private driveway of a farmhouse. 

We could see the cabin from the road but saw no route to get there without jumping over a clearly marked fence and crossing a few fields.  I noticed a man near the farmhouse and asked where the access to the cabin was to take a photograph.  His answer was quick and polite, “This is private property, photography is not allowed.”  Adrian, Peter, and I were all disappointed.  We discussed what to do. Our schedule was extremely tight and did not know if we would make it back to Saksun, this could have been our only chance.  Despite that, we all came to the same conclusion, it was not worth trespassing to take a picture.  There was however a solution to our predicament.  We had to find the owner, explain my project, and get permission to be on the property. Elin was my local contact who I consulted with any logistics issues I could not solve myself.  I asked her with urgency, “Find the owner of this cabin and ask if I can photograph the property and sit for a portrait.”  Four days had gone by without any luck and we were feeling pretty glum about it - but on the fifth day, Elin sent me a text.  She  had found the owner and had arranged a time the following evening to meet.  Not a moment too soon as we were schedule to depart two days later.

When we arrived the next day, much to my surprise we were greeted by the same man who turned us away days earlier.  He recognized us and we shared a good laugh.   Dávur guided us past the farm house on a small footpath, barely noticeable except for the flattened grass.  He explained why he turned as away that first night. The past few years year have shown steady growth in tourists and it is starting to affect the inhabitants of the village. People are always coming to the cabin, trespassing, trampling the grazing land, damaging fences, but the biggest issue is the invasion of privacy.  It is an issue that Dávur only has to deal with in the summer when he is in town. However, Johan Jógvansson, who owns the farm where the cabin is on has to deal with tourists, bloggers, photographers all year round.  Often times they have no regard for his families privacy, willfully ignoring fences and signage.  Indeed it is little unsettling to see someone skulking outside your window.  Dávur said we were probably the only people who have ever asked for permission.  

Dávur’s family has long had a connection to the land. Nearly 25 square km in size the farm is where his great-grandfather and raised 10 children, many of whom left Saksun pursing other careers outside of agriculture.  The cabin was built in 1951, by Dávur’s grandfather (also named Dávur). His grandfather was an pharmacist in Denmark and married a Danish woman, but longed to return home to the Faroe Islands.  His wife said she would move if he could fulfill one condition, that he build her a summer cabin in Saksun.  She was a very smart woman, and Dávur did as she asked.  The family gave up ownership of the farm as none of the heirs became farmers, but they retained possession of the cabin.  Access to the cabin is through the property of the farm, now under the stewardship of Johan Jógvansson who the family retains close ties with.

Based in Glasgow, Dávur is the Principal Trombone at the Royal Scottish National Symphony. Great memories growing up in the Faroe Islands keep him coming back any chance he gets.  Sailing, hiking, camping, fishing, even working on the farm are among the activities he enjoys.  When he is in town during the summer, he plays concerts together with the people who gave him the initial spark to become a musician. They play all over the Islands; in caves, on beaches, grottos, between mountains, as well as the occasional concert halls. 

Dávur belongs to a generation of Faroese, who grew up in a time where the economy was tough and opportunities were limited.  It forced many young people to move away and seek careers abroad.  This generation of expatriates long to return home but are torn about leaving the successful lives and careers they have built.  A sentiment that I am able to relate to closely.  Dávur pulled a bottle of scotch from the hidden floorboard storage compartment and we sat by the window.  The deep orange sunlight pierced through the clouds, and filled the room.  Not only did i get to photograph the cabin at sunset, I did it with the added bonus of enjoying a single malt and entertaining company.  Although the family is continually getting offers from people interested in renting the cabin or buying it but they have no interest in any such arrangements.  This summer cabin is a sanctuary where they can spend their time escaping the hectic hustle of their lives in the city.  It will remain something just for them and a mystery for all those outside looking in.