Aïsha Baert

 1953 - Ostend Beach 


I was born in Ostend, a city on the Belgian coastline. 

I am not sure which came first, my love for being on the road a lot, on the way to whatever I might stumble upon – or my interest in photography and the images that create themselves while just being “out there.” 

While studying photography at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Ghent, I made a series, 1953, about Ostend, the heavy flood in 1953, and climate change. The idea for the project emerged from my reaction to watching Als de dijken breken (If the dikes break), a television series about a heavy storm in Belgium. 

The 1953 project contains portraits and documentations of eyewitnesses who were forced to flee the flood. The series also contains abstract and graphic pictures from the embankments and the sea in Belgium. By putting those three elements together, the tension between the safety of those embankments (so unnatural in the landscape) and the threat of the sea came alive.

The 1953 flood was the most severe flood Belgium and The Netherlands had known for centuries. The flood caused many deaths. Yet, the explicit result of that flood was the building of the largest defense system against the sea in The Netherlands: The Delta Program. 

At the same time, the project grew to become a series of pictures intended as a wake-up call about the dangers of global climate change, in particular, the issue of ice melt and increasingly severe, deadly floods. And as a recognition of that, the landscape might not be under our control anymore . . . if in fact it ever was.