A Year Along the Banks

DOCKS Collective
DOCKS Collective
The Flood in Western Germany: After a year of documentation, numerous visits and conversations in the destroyed places of the Ahr valley, the DOCKS Collective, which includes the photographers Aliona Kardash, Maximilian Mann, Ingmar Bjoern Nolting, Arne Piepke and Fabian Ritter, reports how this work began and how it continued.

»15 July 2021: The day after the disaster, the sun broke through the clouds. The heavy rain of the previous day had been felt by everyone. The situation in the Ahr valley, the many fatalities, all this could not be imagined at that time.

We drove by car in the direction of the Ahr Valley and reached the village of Dernau in the evening hours. In complete darkness, we drove over the narrow, muddy paths along the vineyards. The cellular network had collapsed. Below us in the valley, a rescue boat drove through the completely flooded 1400-inhabitant village. The light of the rescuers and the SOS signals from a flashlight were the only sources of light. We became witnesses of a catastrophe.


In this very unclear situation, we were able to work as a collective, with five photographers, in several places at the same time. We researched in parallel, photographed, selected images, communicated with editors, reflected on our process. On the first evening we decided on a collective authorship.


On the night of the flood, more than 180 people lost their lives; for many people, that night changed everything. After the flood, it became clear to a broad population in Germany, perhaps for the first time: climate change has arrived in Germany.


Stunned, we stood in front of destroyed houses, churches and town centers and noticed how our photography had reached its limits.
Again and again we asked ourselves: Are we allowed to do this? Are we only allowed to take pictures here, or do we also have to help?
It is necessary to document such a disaster from an observing position. For the people who weren’t here. And for the people in the Ahr valley. In acute need we helped, otherwise we decided to take pictures.

It quickly became clear that the reconstruction of the destroyed areas would take several years. We decided to accompany the region for a year.

Today, the Ahr flows quietly through the valley again. But on the banks, nothing is as it was.«




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