Learning from Nordic Light
The late Spring light flooding the Fjords elongates time. It spreads days out, dreamily long, encouraging a golden reflection. You can dwell on your latitude, the passage of the earth around the sun, the sun through the cosmos and the science of the constellations. Or you can let the light seep into your soul and warm you. This is Nordic Light, the international festival of photography hosted by the charismatic Norwegian artist/photographer Morten Krogvold. If photography is the art of light then, as Nordic Light, it becomes a meditation.
What Krogvold has achieved here is a conversation about the very essence of our human dilemma, the ever growing tension between the experience of a kinetic techno world and the powerful human energies that forge us. He has a gift for bringing the sacred out into the open and revealing it as common sense: a respect for the human experience in its most creative form and an exuberant love for the people who make our world. He knows something and wants to share: our world is our stories and while science and rationality can help us understand our physical world, it is art that helps us relate to the real world. For Krogvold, the creative act is a sacred act, creative work is sacred work and creative people are the shamans. Forget your priests, rabbis and imans, look to your photographers, musicians and writers. This may be an international festival of photography but it transcends to a conversation about who we need to be.
Krogvold invites to Nordic Light a carefully selected crew of rangers, each in the Vanguard of their art, exploring the meaning of life as lived in the white heat of love and the dark horror of post colonial consumer capitalism. Chris Rainier’s prayer to vanishing cultures and Jimmy Nelson’s reframing of the noble savage as modern cultural icon are aligned in a way that reveals the beauty and the tragedy of both journeys. Platon‘s hilarious depiction of the paranoia of power, balanced by his own awareness of the cynical game he is playing, is then placed in harmonious contrast to the young enthusiasm of Cooper & Gorfer. It is a dialog between the now and then that opens up the future as a place of hope: that we can reconnect with our humanity, experience our mutual and passionate love, and get beyond the atrocities of our shared past.
Into this cultural war-zone dances the quiet lonely power of Mack Magagane, insightful, philosophical and gorgeous, his work is a riff on urban dystopia that when seen against a backdrop of Cooper and Gorfer‘s seductive cultural chemistry cements a single view: these guys are young and they see beauty, they see it clearly and they see it as diverse and dynamic. While the older generation is caught in the observations of our damage, the new blood is forging a new world that exists in absence of the previous generation’s cultural psychosis. It was enlightening to see the older photographers engage the new magical realism forged by new talent dragging old paradigms, screaming and kicking, into a modern melange of images that made you see the world in a new and profoundly beautiful light.
The center of this vortex is Morten Krogvold who, as the festival wound down, took us on a boat trip to a distant and isolated island, surrounded by the power of the North Sea, once home to a community that was devastated many times by cold tsunamis and raging hurricanes. At the center of the island was a wooden chapel that leaked light into its shadowy confessional space. In its Nordic Light he created a portrait of Magagane, elegant and isolated in a place as far away from his home town of Johannesburg as one could ever imagine. One could not help but feel a profound awareness, that in this single creative moment, a dialog between then and now, was somehow progressed. The sitter offered beauty, the photographer offered prayer.
So what do we learn from the warm Nordic Light? Why were we there?
South Africa, The United States, Great Britain, Sweden, Norway, Germany and many other nations were represented here. But none of those labels helped us define the community that Nordic Light gathers. It is a community of awareness, a group of people who are are part of a new enlightenment that is being led by young indigenous creative people, able to locate in the modern world the value of the old and who use digital technology for analog ends: saving our world from ourselves and reminding us that we are sustained not only by food and water but by the provocations of shared narrative.