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‘Oyster Farm’ series by Tom Hegen

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Tom Hegen Oyster farm Utopian Magazine
Oyster farm

‘Oyster Farm’ project is an abstract landscape depicting oyster farming on the northwestern French Atlantic coast, captured by multitalented and extremely productive photographer Tom Hegen.

Oysters naturally grow in estuarine bodies of brackish water. When farmed, the temperature and salinity of the water are controlled (or at least monitored), so as to induce spawning and fertilization, as well as to speed the rate of maturation – which can take several years.

Oyster farming is an aquaculture (or mariculture) practice in which oysters are bred and raised mainly for their pearls, shells and inner organ tissue, which is eaten. Oyster farming was practiced by the ancient Romans as early as the 1st century BC on the Italian peninsula and later in Britain for export to Rome. The French oyster industry has relied on aquacultured oysters since the late 18th century.

“When the tide pulls out the water from the shore, the beaches reveal rows and rows of oyster beds. The difference between high and low tide of up to 12 meters makes the area perfect for oyster farming. This is one of the broadest intertidal zones in the world. The combination of mild summer climate and the fresh seawater renewed by the tide several times a day makes it a perfect nursery.

After baby oysters matured in small nursery pods, they put them in mesh bags. The cages are taken to the oyster beds, four to five kilometres out in the sea, stacked in racks, and left for over two years while the oysters grow. The oysters are around two to four years old by the time they are ready to be eaten. The bags are shaken and turned at regular intervals so that the oysters do not stick together—farmers use boats and tractors to reach the oyster banks during low tide.

These farms reveal sublime abstract elements like the notation of otherworldly language from the air and only visible during low tide. A man-made landscape as a consequence of the unique and complex bonds between human development and natural environments” words by Tom Hegen.

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