Working on the Site


On an unusually hot day in June 2014, I drove to Nordalsfjorden (North Valley Fjord). Before I went, I had found the place on the map so that I would know approximately where to stop. The road was extremely narrow, so I had to ask to park my car outside of a closed-down grocery store. I met an 86-year-old man, Andreas Solheim, and told him that I wanted to hike to Swan Lake. Quite astonishingly (and I did not know this before I went), Solheim was the man who had discovered the hole in the ice in 1979. At that time, he ran the grocery store, but he had the additional job of looking after the electricity lines in the mountains. It was evident from our conversation that he still thought that the hole in the ice was difficult to explain. He did not necessarily think that a meteorite had landed there. For him, it was still a riddle, especially since the ice was 50 centimeters thick. He also told me about a buoy in the water (placed there in 1979) where the hole in the ice had been. Solheim gave me the name of an amateur photographer who had photographed the hole in the ice in 1979. I later tried to contact this man, but did not manage to find him. 

I took my gear and hiked to the lake. It took approximately half an hour: it was quite steep and rocky, which made me think about the TV team that had made the same trip in 1979, but with diving and photo equipment, and in the winter.


Upon planning the trip, I had decided that, in addition to taking photographs with my digital and analogue medium format camera, I wanted to do something on the site: I chose the cyanotype process that could be done on site using the sun to expose the pictures. This process was invented by the English scientist and astronomer Sir John Herschel in 1842. It became known as an artistic medium thanks to one of the first women photographers, Anna Atkins. Between 1843 and 1853, Atkins produced a total of three volumes of Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions.


Returning to my project, I chose to use the cyanotype because of its particular history. Since the subject matter that I worked with was strongly connected to water, I thought that it had some links to Atkins’s project. Another factor was that this technique provides some esthetic possibilities that are very particular and that no other technique provides. The pictures are intensely blue and very beautiful. They can give the illusion that the things that are photographed are floating in water. At that point, I had not worked with the technique since I had studied photography twenty years before, and I had only done one test print before I went to Swan Lake. I was an amateur. Although I have to admit that this was partly accidental (as I had not had time to practise very much), it was, at the same time, an interesting position to be in; a way to make my relationship to photography fresh, and also to recognize the serendipity in the photographic process. My amateurism would possibly interfere with this beautiful process, hopefully in interesting ways. 


I made prints of the things that I found around or in the lake. Swan Lake is a wonderful and quiet place. I did not see any people during the three times that I visited. I experienced a strong sense (that is easily forgotten in urbanized areas) that this place existed totally on its own, no human consciousness was needed to make it tangible. I walked around the whole lake, a trip that took one or two hours. I found stones, water lilies, and other vegetation, but nothing unusual. Other than the buoy out on the lake and the path that I had walked, I found no traces of humans. Although this  spot was thought to be the center of a huge event in 1979, I encountered a place that seemed to be doing fine without any anthropocentric interference. While Antoine de Saint-Exupéry implied that the magic in his story was connected to the fact that he discovered the stones in the desert, that they became part of his consciousness, my experience was the opposite. Being alone in this landscape made me feel unsure about the whole endeavor. I felt superfluous. The lake, the mud, and the mountains could not help me. Was everything that I was trying to establish in this work made up? Was the event or the aftermath of the event something that was beyond the capacity of humans to explain or document?

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