Magnum Photographer Stuart Franklin reflects on the meditative and hypnotic effect of Norway’s fjords in his most recent exhibition of work – ‘Narcissus’.
Everyone dreams of the perfect bolt hole, whether it’s a simple beach-hut, a cabin in the mountains or a country cottage with roses around the door. For Magnum photographer Stuart Franklin, it was a fisherman’s cabin on Otrøya island, in a remote corner of Norway. With assignments covering Tiananmen Square in 1989, the Sahel famine of 1984-85 and more recently global climate change in Europe, Franklin felt the need to travel less and to simply step outside his front door and breathe.
“It was the landscape that I responded to - explains Franklin - it engages all twelve senses. It is amazing how energized you feel breathing clean air.” His fascination with the island led to a five-year project, which became a meditation on the landscape and resulted in a book and travelling exhibition ‘Narcissus.’ These extraordinary photographs were taken in the region of Møre og Romsdalon, Norway’s western fjordland.
Despite his passionate concern for climate change, which was the subject of recent books such as ‘Footprint: Our landscape in Flux’, Franklin’s approach to this remote region was intensely personal. There is an anthropomorphic element to his work, which is not immediately apparent: an image of a mountain reflected in a fjord becomes a monumental torso, when rotated from landscape to portrait.
Working primarily with a large plate camera built from ebony and titanium (an Ebony 10×8) and a medium format camera (Contax 645) Franklin chose only to work with black and white film, to capture the bright highlights and deep shadows of the fjords and mountains. One technique was to work by moonlight, which reflected against the snow and the mirror-like fjord and avoided the bright sky during the daytime.
“I ask: are we the true subject? - pondered Franklin – and landscape merely the environment from which we select forms that are either familiar or resonant?” He continues to make new work in Otrøya and readily admits to this continuing obsession: “Subjects that fascinate me continue to lure me, and I guess the closure problem will always be there.”
Magnum Photos, 63 Gee Street, London EC1V 3RS
Exhibition ends 31st May 2013.