Antony Sojka   Photography


Tide is a photo-essay about people living in a very unique place called Halligen, which consists of ten small islands situated in the German North Sea. A Hallig is a very small, flat island with no protective dikes. The salt marsh covers the whole area which is full of small water canals. Population ranges between 2 to 100 inhabitants who have a long family tradition of living there.

The main sources of income are tourism, agriculture and coastal protection. Some of the Halligen have their own school, which are Germany’s smallest with only a few pupils and large age gaps between them. After finishing their secondary education children have to visit a school on the mainland.

Since Halligen don't have protective dikes, the flat land is often flooded with saltwater. The only parts staying above water are the houses which are built on high, man-made hills called Warften. During a period of storm tides people are completely isolated from the land and sometimes also from each other, depending on whether or not there are other houses on the same Warft.

It seems like people are living in utter solitude. In some way, this is true, but further engagement with their day-to-day existence complicates this simplified picture. People do choose to live here, and they do have each other for support and company. Days are filled with labor aimed at cultivating their unique homeland and while taking a walk through the Hallig you always have the chance of meeting someone - either a resident or a tourist visiting.

You can see from one end of the Hallig to the other. On the horizon you can see the other ones far away in the sea. The feeling of solitude is present but you know that there are other people out there.

The inhabitants enjoy a kind of freedom most of us long for and accept being controlled by the tides and the isolation from the mainland and everything connected with it.

This project is not solely motivated by the beauty of the place.What really fascinates me is the possibility of its slow disappearance over time. Of course, rising global water levels are often seen as a major threat to such islands. However, while some do believe that the sea is going to flood this territory completely, others point out that Halligen grow a bit every time they are flooded because of small particles in the water sticking to the ground.

In the end, their main problem could be of a demographic nature.

People are getting older and there isn't enough work or space for the livelihoods of newer generations. Therefore, most of the young people move to the mainland and stay there, resulting in a decreasing number of inhabitants and a problem that will certainly come, of who is going to maintain the work of the present generation once they are gone. Families with no children at all face the same problem. Also the houses on the Warften are very expensive and some are in need of renovation and this makes it difficult to find suitable buyers, who also would have to be willing to want to live on the Hallig.

It's a very difficult issue and no one is able to say what exactly is going to happen in the future.

The only thing sure to come is the next tide.