“Takk for at du ser meg.” (“Thank you for seeing me.”)
After reading the details of Aleksander Nordaas’ new Kickstarter project for his Huldra photography book, it was those words above, that jumped forth from his description of the undertaking, and which burrowed their way into my brain. But I think I am getting ahead of myself. First, a bit of background.
In 2013 Nordaas released the beguiling film Thale (which I recently found out was pretty much made in his father’s basement!), drawing on Norway’s rich folklore to explore the concept of certain forest spirits, the huldra. A beautiful, tricksy supernatural being–with the tail of a cow, according to Scandinavian myth. I recall seeing this odd little gem of a film and being absolutely entranced, from beginning to end. I bet a few of you have seen it as well.
It seems Nordaas has been obsessed with the huldra for nearly a lifetime, and recounts hearing stories from his grandmother about these creatures:
And I guess that’s where it started; my belief in the huldra. Some inherit their parents faith and religion – my grandmother made me believe in human-like creatures with tails.
The folklore proved true, he observes: once she gets hold of you, she won’t let go. And five years later, Nordaas created his second huldra project: Heim (Home.) A short film “about finding home with oneself – the back to basics, remembering who we are, w[h]ere and how we got here. And how to use that (self-)insight to change course.” For the endeavor, he aimed to get ahold of six extras. But ended up with 54!
From this interest, the idea of the book was born, the concept for which initially was to create a photography book portraying the folklore creature herself, in all kinds of traditional and modern settings. Nordaas shares that though the old folklore stories and creatures have always fascinated him, it’s the huldra in particular that he’s drawn to – “perhaps because she’s the most complex of them all, being quite similar to us humans. And it was that very human essence that turned this project into something a lot more than just fiction.”
He goes on to explain:
“The human side of the project – making sure everyone were 100% OK with everything before, during and after the shoot – wasn’t just my major priority. It re-shaped the whole project..Body-positivity was and is a core aim of the project; that we’re all of different shapes, sizes, colors and ages. It’s what makes us all unique, it’s the most natural thing in the world – and it’s absolutely ridiculous that it needs to be repeated over and over again.”
After one of the early shoots, Nordaas sent the model some sample pictures and got this in return: “Takk for at du ser meg.” (“Thank you for seeing me.”)
“The Huldra” is 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, in flock. All these stories, all these different lives, challenges, sorrows and joys – the lives lost, and the lives brewing. They’re all part of the project for different reasons, ranging from “Why the hell not?” to dealing with the deep-down personal; shattered body images, eating disorders, self-harm and abuse.
Though not in words, all these stories are in here. In the faces, the scars, the tattoos – in what once was, and now is.
We all need to be seen – for who we are, not necessarily were.”
What a glorious sentiment and a gorgeous freaking project. I wish I could figure out out to share the video on my blog here, but instead of saying more and giving the whole thing away, I hope you’ll take a peek at Aleksander’s Kickstarter page and consider backing this stunning book of intimate power, vulnerability, and magic.
The Huldra – 97 women, in all shapes, sizes and ages – with tails. A very different XXL folklore photo book – five years in the making.