The global award in photography and sustainability

Carl De Keyzer

Moments Before the Flood

It seems to be an accepted fact that the sea level will rise dramatically before the end of the century as a result of climate change, partly through the fault of us humans. Prognoses vary from a few decimetres to a few metres. Moments Before the Flood is a visual, photographic  investigation into how Europe is coping with this difficult-to-gauge threat. The coasts of Europe are the areas in which the repercussions of this threat will be felt. This is the zone in which the mainland no longer feels as ‘main’ as it once did, where the Old World is foundering and where the future is a threat to the past. The coast is the question mark of the mainland. And that’s what makes it such a fascinating subject for photographic research that tries to depict uncertainty. This project doesn’t just focus on a possible future hazard; it also takes in the various forms of coastal protection in Europe throughout history and how today Fortress Europe copes with other swells and floods.

The 65,000 kilometre-long coast of Europe is dotted with useless coastal defences from bygone days. Many represent enormous investments in materials and man-hours, but most never served any purpose, either because the ‘enemy’ didn’t show up, or, when the enemy did appear, the construction proved hopelessly outdated.

Is Europe prepared for the possible dramatic rise of the sea level and to what extent will its efforts eventually prove futile? Eventually the threat was not so serious, or was it perhaps because we were so well prepared for it? To a great extent, this research programme is all about this latent tension, the incapacity to define just how real a threat actually is and how efficient our defences are against it.

Carl De Keyzer