Why do we like documentary photography? Because it tells us stories, it shows us the human face of the unknown. Slash and Burn is an artistic documentary by Norwegian photographer Terje Abusdal. We like it because it elegantly paves the way for us in the dark hoods of Norway, into the world of the “Forest Finns”.
The “Forest Finns” descended from Finland to Norway in the early 1600s in search of fertile soils. Slash and burn farmers, they seeded on the ashes of the forests they destroyed. Their agricultural method forcing them to continuously look for new forests, the “Forest Finns” were inherently nomadic. Now this ancient habit has disappeared, the community settled at the border between Norway and Sweden. Their language lost, but their identity survived. Marked by a strong feeling of belonging, the community holds on to their culture, and their roots in the wilderness. A folklore woven with shamanistic practices, the modern Forest Finns culture survives in their tales. They do not use magic as an everyday tool anymore, but their daily life is still lined with mystery. This Aurea of savage mysticism emanates from the series, and creates a timeless fairy-tale.
A free photographic approach
Over three years photographer Terje Abusdal followed the Finns in the hoods, he knocked at their doors, talked to them, took their portraits. From Svullrya, the capital of the Forest of the Finns, he drove long hours to retrace the migration route of this people from Finland to Norway. Half staged half instantaneous, half posing half natural, half colour half black and white, half graphically modified half not. Terje doesn’t follow any pre-conceived standard in his photography. Mainly self-taught, he defines his visual language as “free”. “Over three years, I had nobody telling me what was right or wrong” he tells us. The classic neatness of his portraits might be misleading: Terje’s photographic path is spontaneous and non-institutional. A polymorphic character, Terje was and is not only a photographer. “I have a background in Economics, I started a website selling used wedding gowns (that did not go to well) and I am currently working part-time for an adoption NGO.” Inspired by a road trip through Turkey and Georgia with Greek photographer Nikos Economopoulos, Terje decided to become a photographer. Slash and Burn is a timeless piece, refreshed by an enthusiastic storyteller.
Images from “Slash and Burn” © Terje Abusdal