"THE HULDRA" - PHOTOGRAPHY BOOK (2022)
ME AND THE HULDRA
Spring 2018, I finally pursued my original huldra project. The idea emerged back in 2008, but at that time I very much doubted that anyone - not over at 100 at least - would wish to be a part of this project.
So instead, I pursued the huldra in the feature film format, with "Thale" (2013). Three years in the making - pretty much in my father's basement and on a none-existing-budget - the film came through and got its international release. Screened in Toronto, 18+ mill trailer views, sold to 50+ countries - well, it was all very much surreal for a newbie filmmaker.
"Thale" (2013), starring Silje Reinåmo as Thale
And you'd think that would shake her off - that I'd be rid the huldra and move on. But, the folklore proved true: Once she gets hold of you, she won't let go. So years later, our most beloved and feared creature in the Norwegian folklore, grabbed ahold yet again.
So an August summer day in 2017, I suddenly found myself here:
In the woods, doing the first shots for my second huldra project; the short film "Heim" (Home) - with lead actress Johanne Fossheim and 50+ local hulder extras. And above, I remember thinking "What the hell are you doing, Aleksander?
"Heim" is a short film about finding home with oneself, and it spurred from my own situation in 2015-16, trying to make some sense of my new life and reality with newborn twins. In short. So the film is sort of a combo of my thoughts back then, set in a larger context - with the huldra as a central ingredient.
My first personal and slightly artsy short film premiered at Tromsø Internation Film Festival in 2019, and after, I aimed to keep a lid on it until my third and final hulder project, "The Huldra", was due. But then Corona happened, and it gave the film an unintended, unwanted - but still current - topicality. The back to basics, remembering who we are, were and how we got here. And how use that (self-)insight to change course. I guess it's something there.
So instead of keeping the huldras in hiding for another year, I've decided to put the film out there for free. So for what it's worth as an alternative angle, comment or input on the present situation - or just en eight-minute break from it all - here is "Heim":
THIRD AND FINAL: "THE HULDRA"
The production of "Heim" proved me wrong. I had severely underestimated the local boldness and will of the Helgeland huldras, which surfaced in "Heim". I searched for seven local extras, but 54 signed up - which first off forced me to rewrite the short to be able to include everyone. 'Cause if it's one thing you don't turn down, it's will.
And it was this very will that finally kicked off my original huldra project; a coffee-table-sized, 500-page photography book. The geographic premise of the project was to do all the shoots within in the region of Helgeland in northern Norway. And even though I didn't foresee the comprehensive work regarding research and logistics, I've stayed true to this premise. From north to south, from inland to coast, the aim is to cover as much as possible of the Helgeland fauna - as it's here (in my mind) the huldra truly belongs and dwells:
Though the geographical aspect is true to the original idea, the portrayal of the huldra is not. 'Cause when I actually met her, it pretty much changed the project core:
"THANK YOU FOR SEEING ME."
I set out to make a photography book portraying the folklore creature herself, in all kinds of traditional and modern setting. The old folklore stories and creatures have always fascinated me, and the huldra in particular - perhaps because she's the most complex of them all, being quite similiar to us humans. And that very human essence turned this project into something more than just fiction.
Over 100 local models within the small region of Helgeland have signed on for this project - something I find both impressive and terrifying. Impressed by the will, and terrified of the trust given to me. 'Cause none of the models are payed. They're all part of the project for different reasons, ranging from why-the-hell-not to getting past personal issues and traumas; shattered body image, eating disorders, self-harm and abuse.
So yes, there's a lot of nakedness in this book. To-the-core kind of nakedness. Which I wasn't really prepared for and truly found unsettling at first. Like, how do you go about a nude shoot with someone you know has a rough backstory, well aware that taking part in this parcticular shoot is a major milestone for them? What if you don't make it a positive experience for them, and what if you screw up the focus or whatnot so the pictures turn out unusable? I'm truly no experienced photographer or documentarist, so I suddenly found myself being the one getting nervous for the shoots.
But after one of the early shoots, I sent the model some sample picture and got the following message in return: "Takk for at du ser meg." / Thank you for seeing me." I didn't think too much of it at first, I was just relieved that the model was happy with the outcome of the shoot. But that strain of text kept knocking in the back of my mind, then gradually became sort of an eye-opener. Not only to how to go about the shoots, but to what this project truly was. We all need to be seen - for who we are, not necessarily were.
So the combo of that raw, natural and powerful creature that the huldra is, and all these authentic, badass North-Norwegian women portraying her, and themselves - side by side through 500 pages - well, that's gonna be one heavy, heartfelt and wholesome book. And I can say that because it's truly not to my credit :)
I'm slowly but surely watching this book come together as a whole - with hundreds of photos plastered up on my walls, and still hundreds to go. And with each single one, I grow more and more humble, honored - and still somewhat terrfified - having the huldra's trust.
The project is still in the works, and the book isn't due until autumn 2022, but if you want to stay updated on the process and project up to release, be sure to follow the project's Facebook and Instagram. And/or; sign up for the newsletter.
Very best, Aleksander