“Between rough mountain ridges, ancient forests and deep fjords,” says Oslo-based photographer Ole Marius Joergensen, “there once lived a cold and strange group of people. Their beautiful, small country would later be known as Norway or the way north. The great wilderness provided the people with their livelihood, but it also presented dangers. Many mysterious incidents in this desolate landscape forced the people to recognise the existence of diverse nature spirits. They discovered a variety of strange creatures living in their midst. Some of them benevolent and others evil who would attack people when nature was violated. Some of the spirits could create storms to endanger fishermen, lure young girls and boys into the woods, or frighten the people during the night. These spirits shared the life of the Norwegian people for several centuries but gradually disappeared with the modern way of life.”
Several well-known Norwegian artists of the 19th century had painted these spirits, but no one ever tried to capture them with a camera. So Ole took to wandering in the sparsely populated mountainous regions of northern Norway in search of those characters from old Nordic sagas and folk tales – and capture them he did. Everyone from the shapeshifting water spirit Nøkken to the ghost Deildegast, whose job is to ensure that border-stones are not tampered with.
You can read the Wikipedia entry on Scandinavian folkore for an introduction. Check out the scholarly books on the right and the left for more information. Ole’s photographs below:
Stories fascinate the Norwegian photographer immensely. He believes he is not so good with words, so has made the camera his tool and medium. He elaborates: “Stories without answers are my favorite. I love the wonder and the frustration that come with not knowing and also like it when we, the audience, must finish the tale up. I often include that element in my images. So I become more of a story-creator and the audience becomes the story-teller.” Ole’s artistic journey began with film studies in 1991. In 2001, he came to the conclusion that film was not for him. He switched to photography and studied it in the city of Trondheim from 2002-04. “After studies I was very lost,” he says, “I didn’t exactly know how and what to express and in what kind of pictorial language. In 2008, I got to kno Elisabeth Ramfjord – owner of Galleri Ramfjord that represents me here in Norway – and I learned a lot from her about the art world and how to live in it.”
Ole is not limited to the mythical. He has produced several projects that deal with contemporary themes. He enjoys creating images that reflect the dreams, hopes and fears of his countrymen. His more “realistic” works are infused with what, according to him, is a “Norwegian brand of surrealism”. At the same time, he says, he finds it hard to understand his own culture – “What is Norwegian culture? I really don’t know. Is it the way we dress or eat? Is it the nature and our relation to it? Things are going too fast. I feel that Norwegian culture is changing a lot due to globalisation and sometimes I feel that everyone in the world is a citizen of one big country: internet-land.”
His collections contain weary salesmen and walking spacemen, irritated superheroes and urban residents hiding behind curtains. Because of his background in film, a strong cinematic quality remains in all of Ole’s works and this quality has evolved over the years. “I have always been driven towards absurdity, dark themes and humour,” he explains. “In the beginning, things were loud and crazy but now the atmosphere is more tranquil and less noisy. I love beautiful images with a hidden or underlying sadness to it.” He loves the sets and lights and colours of big Hollywood productions and considers Alfred Hitchcock and David Lynch his influences. From the realm of painting, it is Edward Hopper. And the literary figure he has been in love with – since age 12 – is Stephen King.
Regarding his ideas for the future, Ole comments: “Thinking big is not our thing up here in Norway (except when it comes to the oil business!) but I have always wanted to make bigger and bigger things (sets/project). For a long time, I have wanted to do something on our massive mishandling/destruction of Mother Earth and also on the gigantic corporate world. We’ll see…”
As an artist, he believes his job is to “entertain – provoke – look at/into – discover – save – make better.” More on Ole’s website (www.olemariusphotography.com), Saatchi Art (www.saatchiart.com/olemarius) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/Ole-Marius-Joergensen-100657636648560) pages.