Baltic Sea Islands by Xavier Aaronson
For Manhattan-born and now Copenhagen-based photographer Xavier Aaronson, photography is about discovering new places and capturing vanishing adventures. For the last ten years, Aaronson’s been a roaming creative making documentary films about far out people in far flung places. During that time, he’s used photography to celebrate different cultures, connect with individuals, and explore raw environments while exhibiting his work at galleries and museums in Moscow, Brooklyn, and The Netherlands. We caught up with Xavier to find out more about his process and recent trip photographing Bornholm.
Only NY: Where are you from? Xavier: I’m born and raised in Manhattan, around Morningside Heights.
How long have you been making photos? I’ve been making photos since as long as I’ve been eating sandwiches. At around 12 years old, my dad introduced me to his father’s Rolleiflex SL35 and that same year I got a Canon ZR65MC MiniDV camcorder. My first experience with a still camera is inseparable from my introduction to video. They’re like conjoined twins for me.
What inspired you to start photographing? Being a teenager in NYC surrounded by awesome friends inspired me to take more and more photographs. I always saw friends as much cooler than even they thought they were, so photographing them around where we grew up was my way of boosting them and sharing with them how I saw them.
What do you look to capture in your photos? Every photo for me is a little middle finger to the speed demons of time. I want to capture the awesomeness of our own mortality. Life is the sum of all these excellent but fleeting instances and taking photos is my way of pulling the handbrake — but without losing the momentum — of fast-moving and short-lived flashes of laughter, nature, thrills, and love.
What drew you to capturing the Baltic Islands? Back in May of this year, during the pandemic lockdown, my girlfriend and I wanted to get as far away as possible from our home in Copenhagen but without crossing borders. We were looking for a place that had less pavement and more dirt. We landed on Bornholm, which is a tiny Danish island in the Baltic Sea, somewhere between southern Sweden and northern Poland. I was drawn to Bornholm by its raw nature and unpeopled landscape. In general, I’m curious about what it means to be an islander these days. Whether it’s Manhattan or Bornholm, an island's greatness is also part of its limitations. Once we reach the limits of our islands, we can find new edges, become more privy to its mysteries, and maybe even discover its lesser known parts. Photos by Xavier Aaronson.