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PORTFOLIO

20.10.2020

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“The HELT KONGE project tells a story about Norway and the Norwegians, about our culture and our history. It is about how we live, what things are important to us, and about our relationship to the royal family. I shot the very first photo of this series in the engine room of a lighthouse in the western part of Norway. I had an exhibition there, and as I walked through one of the rooms I noticed a faded picture of our previous king on the wall. I remember thinking that it was an odd place to have a photo of the king, and on instinct I photographed the wall. At the time I didn’t reflect any further on it. Life went on, and such photos and walls full of images of the royal family kept popping up in situations where I wasn’t looking for them.

I’m a photographer and I’ve also studied anthropology, so I’m generally curious about people and how they live. At some point I took a step back, went through the royal material I already had, and became curious about finding more. I asked myself: how widespread is this phenomenon of royal portraits in the homes of Norwegians? I embarked on a journey through Norway to find out.

Norway became an independent country in 1905 and we have had three kings since then. I decided to concentrate and narrow down HELT KONGE to that period. The walls became as interesting as what was on them, as well as how people had combined the objects they had. Our royal family has a special place in Norway also because of the history of its occupation during WWII.

It’s been a very satisfying project to work on. People have been incredibly friendly and have welcomed me into their homes. I felt that people were very appreciative of the fact that someone was showing an interest in their affection for the royal family. There were cases when a photo of the king might have been hanging on the wall for decades without anyone taking any particular notice. When I presented my project, some people were a bit perplexed and had no idea about the issue. Sometimes I was met with a grin. Some Norwegians are also in favour of a republic, so most of them would not have a photo of the royals in their home. Many people were very helpful and tried to guide me along and give me tips and a phone number of people and offices I could call.

This was a project where I had to be persistent, have endurance. I often had to make loads of phone calls and talk to a lot of people, before getting to a room with royals on the wall. It has lasted about 10 years. Obviously I have been photographing a million other people and places in between. I’ve been to countless houses, buildings and institutions.

I used the Leica S (Typ 006) for the majority of the photos in the HELT KONGE project. It was a very good camera for this project because it’s very accurate and has a good resolution. The screen is light, and I could see the image and evaluate the quality of the image while working. The camera is very simple and intuitive to operate. I could work with a tripod and have full control.”

Text and all images on this page: © Elin Høyland
Equipment: Leica S (Typ 006), Elmarit-S 45/2.8 Asph.
© Håkon Eikesdal

Elin Høyland

Elin Høyland is a Norwegian photographer who has worked for numerous newspapers such as The Guardian and the Norwegian Business Daily. Dewi Lewis (UK) published her book The Brothers in 2011 and Brother I Sister in 2015. Her latest book is titled HELT KONGE. Her work has been widely exhibited around the world at galleries, museums and photo festivals. Høyland lives and works in Oslo.

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