First acquaintance with Kihnu. By Arnaud Lafeuillade

Source: Meelika Lehola, Visit Estonia

First acquaintance with Kihnu. By Arnaud Lafeuillade


Arnaud LafeuilladePhotographer

We often hear that Estonian people are cold, reserved, but since I arrived in Estonia to finish my Master studies, I always felt warmth no matter the weather. After three months here, I felt I found my place in the world, always and still constantly amazed by such a mix of traditions and modernity.

I came here devoid of any prejudice, empty as a blank sheet, but my passion about Estonian culture grew quickly. It’s always fascinating to think how much culture and appreciation for it is gathered in such a small territory. Every second of spare time can be dedicated to discover those things, and yet, it feels almost impossible to know all of them in a life time. As a photographer, I decided that Estonia would now occupy an important place in my work, taking me out for a while of the worldwide Fashion Weeks’ fury.

In November, I needed a breath from my daily city life, and what could be better for this than leaving to an island? I heard about Kihnu when first arrived in Estonia, some French TV channels already made documentaries about the life on this small island, but yet, it felt that journalists just went there to grab images and left without getting really immersed in the atmosphere that lingers this place, willing to describe an all black or white picture of it without seeing all the shades that make this island so special.

When I arrived on the island, Veronika, the woman from my host farm (called Pärnamõisa) picked me up in her old Volkswagen, keeping a giant smile and I tried as much as I could to use my yet not so good Estonian skills including some Kihnu words previously learned on the Visit Kihnu website. She was wearing her traditional Kihnu striped red skirt called "kört" as well as the majority of women on the island on a daily-basis. Meeting her for the first time and seeing her sparkling beautiful light eyes made me realise that I definitely wanted to make portraits of Kihnu faces. I introduced her my project and she was already actively calling all her friends and relatives on the island, explaining that a French photographer would love to make portraits of some Kihnu women. And beyond all expectations, I had the chance to meet many different people, going from farm to farm, meeting young and older souls, from the school teacher to one of the most productive handicraft maker, having the chance to take part in a birthday party and later to enjoy the Kadripäev festivities within the community.

I have been welcomed in such a good way that I would have never imagined before and at the same time, been listening carefully to peoples' feelings and ideas. From this, I learnt a true life lesson of honesty.

After one week, I had to join the mainland but my heart stayed in Kihnu. I saw so much beauty, warmth, and at the same time heard about the issues Kihnu people are encountering on a daily basis, but from there came a strong will to picture this life over the next year, providing the most genuine photo project possible. Stay tuned!

See Arnaud's Instagram profile for more photos!

Last updated : 02.03.2022

In category: Islands