‘I’m nowhere else
Where the grass pulls away
In between the trees
Through the woods,
This narrow path,
Hardly more than animal tracks,
Hardly more than a slight change of colour,
A lighter shade of pale’
The title of Eivind H. Natvig’s book, Du Er Her No / You Are Here Now, published by Tartaruga, has a sense of definition to it; a declaration of arrival at a certain point. Perhaps it’s poignant then that, after writing that sentence, I open the book to a small, solitary image of a white wooden cabin nestled on a hillside, with the Norwegian flag waving gently at half mast. The flag marks the geographical identity of the book, but also the photographer’s homeland. Normally, the prospect of yet another project about home and identity would cause me to retreat and pretend that not another occurrence of the drawn-out topic existed. This iteration, however, is something markedly different.
It appears as though Natvig’s intention is to question the idea of what home is. The familiarity that we often associate with the word is scrutinized within the images, and acts more as an investigation into how we perceive where we are from. He has stated that prior to him beginning to take pictures in Norway before 2007, he had hardly ever visited. What comes with that, then, is what feels like a lack of familiarity with the subject matter. The images speed by without any real sense of identity developing — at least in respect of what we have come to understand as an identity shown to us through projects similar to this one. Instead, the work takes on an incredibly surreal, dream-like quality to it.
Natvig’s camera flashes with every turn of the page, sometimes fully illuminating his subject matter and stopping them dead for a mere moment. Other times the subject is fleeing from the frame, with only a fraction of it revealed to us. The camera crops close as well, limiting our viewpoint ever more. Although it is a rather worn-out reference, there are similarities in the photographs to the films of David Lynch. Lots of things are visited only briefly, yet they resonate in the mind and have a lasting impact. A red pool with several fish heads bobbing up to the surface, and a yellow raincoat at night, wading out to sea with no human extremities visible; absurd situations such as these are left unexplained.
A good deal of attention has been paid to the design of the book and the way it feels to move through it. Little touches such as the red, circular sticker that covers the fore-edge, required to be removed before opening, feel particularly well suited to the absurdity and unique qualities of the content. Inside, the hand-scrawled text that runs at the beginning and end fit well with feel of the book, styling it somewhat like a diary-cum-handwritten story.
Overall, the book is engaging, albeit not as sustained as I would have hoped for. The majority of the images are interesting, however the style in which they are shot seems to change at times, shifting from romanticised images with a darker undertone, to flash-filled snapshots. There is never really enough commitment to marry these two styles together, and I was left wanting more from it in that regard. However the work is a unique take on a very tired topic, so for that it should be applauded.
You can purchase a copy of Du Er Her No / You Are Here Now from here.
All images ©Eivind H Natvig
Review by James Brown