Felix von der Osten looks at the central role that pork plays in Danish society
Every Three Seconds takes its name from how often each new pig is slaughtered in Denmark
- Charlie Filmer-Court
- 27 January 2020
- Reading Time
- 4 minute read
As veganism continues to make headlines, it is easy to assume that meat eating is decreasing in popularity. In many Western countries it is, however Felix von der Osten’s project Every Three Seconds shows one meat-based industry that is going from strength to strength: Danish pork.
“In 2018, Denmark produced over 32 million pigs, across 5,000 pig farms. In 2019, production was expected to increase, potentially doubling the yearly production to the magic number of 50 million,” says Felix. “According to these numbers, there are roughly six times more pigs than Danes in Denmark.”
It is a rather startling statistic, and that statement is the basis of Felix's project: a photographic essay that shows another important side to Denmark, away from the Hygge and happiness rankings.
“For the project I was looking for something in the Danish culture which is truly Danish. And the Danes can’t go without their pork,” explains Felix. “Everyone will have their own recipe on how to do crispy pork belly for example. It is deeply intertwined with Danish culture. Pigs and pork even appear in thousand-year-old Norse mythology.”
The inspiration for the project came whilst reading an article on Europe’s biggest slaughterhouse in Horsens, Denmark. “In the text it said that visitors can have a free tour to see every aspect of the processing – from delivering the pigs, killing and slicing to packaging,” he says. “Even a lot of school classes go there. Here, every weekday 20,000 pigs are slaughtered. That is almost one pig in every three seconds.”
This finding led to the research that has underpinned his project, and also informed the message Felix wanted to convey photographically. “I want to show how consumerism looks in Denmark. Where does the pork come from? Where will it end up? How does it surround Danes in their daily life and their cultural relationship to the meat itself? This all combined in a photographic essay,” he says. Felix's overall message is not a negative one, merely a look at something which is so important Danish society, and how it remains so after all these years.
Felix, who is from Germany, realised he didn’t want an office job after his mandatory military service aged sixteen: “I started working as a photographer’s assistant. That lead to studying photography at the Fachhochschule Dortmund. In 2014 I then did two semesters at the Danish School of Media and Journalism (DMJX) in their international photo program.” It was during this time that he shot Every Three Seconds, which is soon to be exhibited at Circulations 2020.
The techniques Felix has employed are to try and place the viewer into a different position, not just as someone observing. There is a notable use of flash as well as unconventional compositions and framing, which ultimately changes the mood of the project to something slightly more intense than a normal documentary project.
“I wanted to experiment with my photographic style within this project. Shoot differently, use my camera in a different way, move faster, work faster, go up close and go crazy,” recalls Felix. “For that I chose a snapshot style with flash to highlight certain parts of an image and guide the viewer inside. It also should reflect as an homage on our consumeristic society nowadays and show the viewer how they might look as a consumer.”
The difficulties of working in a different way were part of the fun for Felix: “It was a special personal challenge as I’d never worked like this before, if people get flashed in the face they definitely notice! That will for sure put you out of your comfort zone. It’s a mystery for me how people like Martin Parr and Lars Tunbjörk are doing this. Nevertheless I explored a totally different way of shooting and I really liked it.”
Getting close to people was a new challenge for Felix, but he went on to find out that getting closer to the pork industry was even more difficult. “From the beginning, access was vital for my project and it was not easy to achieve," he explains. "Everything began with the Danish Crown Slaughterhouse in Horsens. I tried constantly over a long period of time to get permission to photograph the facilities, and was sadly denied. I had to go to at least five to eight butchers to finally find one who’d let me shoot there, as well as pig farmers,” he says. “Everyone was prejudiced that I only wanted to report badly about their place. It was really challenging to convince them of the opposite.”
Felix is now based on Cologne, making it more difficult to continue and develop the project as he would like: “ I really would like to add some families bbq-ing, as well as some traditional pork related food served on a typical danish celebration, to tell more about the danish culture around pork that I missed.”
GalleryFelix von der Osten: Every Three Seconds
Felix von der Osten: Every Three Seconds
About the Author
Charlie joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in December 2019. He has previously worked at Monocle 24, and The Times following an MA in International Journalism at City University. If you have any ideas for stories and work to be featured then get in touch.