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The Floods
of the World Deserve
Witnesses

DOCKS Collective

As a collective, we share a similar view of the world, of what seems important to us. Usually, it's a calm perspective, showing situations sometimes from a distance, allowing a view of the larger context.

Some images and moments only become relevant later, and with others, you already know at the moment you press the shutter that everything is just right. The perspective, the light, the composition, and all the elements with which you work to tell the story of an event come together. The relevance of the moment is usually understood when you are in the situation, whether a meaning arises from it in image form, only shows later in the larger context. When we go through the images together in the selection process, it is always clear relatively quickly, which image is the most meaningful and convincing.

The Floods of the World Deserve Witnesses

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This picture was taken in the German village of Dernau on 15.07.21 - the first night after the flood, that took the lives of 186 people and destroyed many houses. Dernau is one of the places most affected in the area of the Ahr Valley. It is part of our personal project and was later published in various German and international media. The picture has also been chosen as one of TIME’s photos of 2021 and was on the cover of Die Zeit's flood issue.

We saw rescuers with a flashlight in a rubber boat, slowly floating through the village looking for survivors. It was very quiet, and the lifeguards' flashlight was the only source of light. It was one of those scary yet magical moments that speak to the tragedy perhaps more than all the horrific photos of the devastation.

This is one of the key pictures in our project, that moved us to work further on the story. We took this photo on the first night after the flood, when the region, and indeed the whole country, was still in shock and trying to understand the scale of the tragedy. The once idyllic and touristy wine-growing region now lay in ruins, the streets littered with trees, overturned cars, and debris brought by the flood. Due to the lack of communication, more than a thousand people had been reported missing.

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None of us had worked with such topics or seen disasters like this in Germany with our own eyes before. We were so overwhelmed with emotion from what we saw that we weren't sure we would go back there again. At this point on the hill, we were able to catch our breath and literally look at what had happened from the outside.
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There was still water everywhere, no electricity, and someone was singing SOS from the balcony of their house, because it was impossible to get out on their own.

This picture is a part of our photographic essay, The Flood in Western Germany, which documents the destruction, pain, and hardships of rebuilding in the flooded areas, over a period of one year. Since July 15, 2021 we have been photographing as a collective in the affected regions, building relationships, accompanying evacuation and repatriation, following emergency workers and volunteers. We document our experiences and how those affected dealt with this catastrophe of the century.

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Four of us were living in Dortmund at the time, which is very close to the most flood-affected areas. For us as journalists, going there and documenting what happened seemed like a natural reaction to a disaster that happens very close to you. A flood project is not something you can plan, and when we first went to Dernau, we didn't think we'd be working on the topic for a year. But that became clear in just a couple of days when we realized how important it was to be in this place and with these people, right now.

For us, being a photographer is more than taking pictures. It's about an attitude towards the world.

Photography is a way of looking at the world for us; a way of understanding things, of communicating. It takes us to places we would never go without photographing; it gives a kind of permission to be on the spot, to talk to people, and to learn more about them and their views on things. Sometimes it feels like photography is a key to these moments.

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leica oscar barback award logo
DOCKS Collective

LOBA shortlist candidate 2022

DOCKS collective and their project "The flood in Western Germany" were one of the Leica Oscar Barnack Award shortlist candidates in 2022.