In the face of rising water levels, an entire village is moving

Published in February 2019

In the north-west United States in the village of Taholah, Quinault Native Americans are getting ready to move many of their houses and public buildings to higher ground. Global warming is to blame: their village is threatened by rising water levels. As early as 2014, enormous waves burst their dike during a storm, flooding the houses closest to the Pacific Ocean. The dike has been repaired, but this is inevitably only a temporary solution.

Thanks to funds from the federal Administration for Native Americans, a plan to move the village 800 meters from its current location is underway. Two-thirds of residents and numerous public services (school, fire fighters, etc.) are concerned. For the Quinault people, climate change also has other impacts, particularly a drop in the quantities of salmon in the river that gave this Native American community its name. In the light of the upheavals to come, the inhabitants are getting organized.


David Hanson studied literature and geology at university, where he first took up photography. Although he has taken a few photography classes, for the most part he taught himself his trade in the nineties, printing and developing his photos in a dark room before the rise of digital photography. He worked in the media sector for a dozen years.

David Hanson, an intimate portrait photographer

His love of people shines through his work. David Hanson mainly takes portraits, which he often enriches with brief interviews. He asks very simple questions about everyday life and describes himself as a handyman storyteller – documentary filmmaker, writer, photographer, director. His one aim is to tell the stories of the people he meets, often by chance.

He began to travel across the United States, taking several hundred portraits of Americans. These reports capture an intimate feel, prioritizing natural light.

“I like listening to people, understanding how they live, and sharing their experience with the public,” he explains. “Especially when they don’t take center stage, when people don’t particularly pay them any attention, whereas their life is fascinating.”

This report on Taholah was important to David Hanson who, like the Quinault community, lives near the Pacific Coast, in Oregon. “Their story deserves to be told,” he stresses. “It is important to go to a small fishing village like this one, which is regularly flooded due to rising water levels. What is happening to them allows you to really see the effects of climate change. My photos show the reality of the climate threat for these people.”

For this report, David Hanson used a drone capable of flying several tens of meters above the sea and the village, showing just how close the houses are to the ocean.