Old Norse, mystics and race cars: is lvdalen the weirdest village in Sweden?

It is the place where the witch hunts began and it still boasts its own language and strange rituals. Photographer Maja Daniels relives three freezing years in a cabin in lvdalen

In 1926, the yearbook of the Swedish Tourism Association described the village of lvdalen as a community with a dark insular spirit where locals were shadowed by distrust and unease. It was there in 1668 that the Swedish witch-hunts began, resulting in the execution of 19 girls and one man suspected of occult practices. One senses that the tourist association thought the stigma had lingered on into the 20th century. It is not easy to get close to them, the yearbook added, particularly if you dont speak their language.

Today, lvdalen, in the west of Sweden, still has its own language, Elfdalian, which has been traced back to Old Norse, the tongue of the Vikings. Swedish-born photographer Maja Daniels spent many childhood summers there, in a cabin built by her grandparents in the woods by the river.

lvdalen is part of what I call home, she says. My grandparents spoke Elfdalian, whose continued existence baffles linguists, but also is a personal mystery to me, as I cannot speak it. The language has undergone a recent revival, with bursaries granted to 16-year-olds who are proficient speakers.

Wonder
Wonder and mystery one of Tenn Lars Perssons photographs chromicling life in the area. Photograph: Maja Daniels/Tenn Lars Persson, courtesy of Elfdalen Hembygdsforening and MACK

In 2012, Daniels began to make work about lvdalen and three years later, as her fascination deepened, she left London and moved back there. I signed up to be a Swedish teacher at a centre for asylum-seekers, 30 kilometres outside of lvdalen, she says. I worked there for six months. But after I was given a work grant, I ended up living in the cabin for three years.

It must have been quite an adjustment, given the severity of the winters in the area, which has a reputation as the coldest part of Sweden. I was often defeated by the weather and sometimes totally isolated by snow and ice, she says. A lot of time was spent in and around the cabin, immersing myself in the forest. The rest of the time I engaged with the local community.

The result is Elf Dalia, an intriguing, mysterious photobook that combines Daniels often impressionistic images of the landscape and its mainly young people with a fascinating archive of photographs by a local eccentric, Tenn Lars Persson, who was born there in 1878 and died in 1938.

Dressing
Dressing up rituals Daniels captured local traditions. Photograph: Maja Daniels

Tenn Lars was interested in what can be described as natural magic knowledge of astrology, alchemy, the occult and the hidden power of plants, animals and stones. Despite spending only four years in school as a child, he became a self-taught electrician, optician, inventor, photographer and scientist. In many ways, he was a wizard of his time.

Persson made his own cameras and lenses, as well as constructing a telescope to study and photograph the moon. He is remembered as the man who brought electricity to lvdalen, and for his lectures on the wonders of the solar system and plant life. For Daniels, his monochrome photographs of the landscape and people of lvdalen distil the sense of wonder and mystery that drew her back there. I felt a deep connection to his work, she says. I wanted to initiate a dialogue with it, to emphasise the unique, almost eccentric spirit of the place.

That visual dialogue is what lends the book its sense of mystery, while also undercutting it. Perssons photographs accentuate both the everyday life and the otherness of the community, with locals dressed up for festivals, their faces sometimes drawn over by him, while Daniels mainly colour images are more elusive.

Shadow
Shadow of the past an image from Elf Dalia. Photograph: Maja Daniels

Her rural landscapes suggest human presence denuded forests, the glare of streetlights filtered through trees, young men racing cars through rutted woodland tracks. Other more impressionistic images use sunlight, shadow and sparks to evoke the unchanging natural mystery of the elemental Swedish landscape. In several portraits, faces of strangers are fully or partially obscured, while individuals she knows are revealed in closeup. All the while, you are gently reminded that she is an outsider despite her family connections.

Formerly a straight documentary photographer, Daniels is best known for her series Monette & Mady, about elderly identical twins who have remained inseparable throughout their lives, with matching clothes and uncannily synchronised gestures. Elf Dalia, from its made-up title onwards, marks a departure into conceptually driven visual suggestion. Making this work changed the way I think about the photograph, she says. It has become more about what I can try to make it do, rather than what it represents.

As well as under- and overexposing her photographs, Daniels sometimes allowed light to leak into the exposed rolls of film to let go of some of my control, but also to produce the sensation of otherworldly presences which I had, in a way, invited in.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2019/may/01/maja-daniels-photographer-alvdalen-sweden-witch-hunts-elf-dalia-weirdest-norse

Hi my name is Kareem Maize and welcome to my personal blog. I am 26 year old musician and information technology professional with a passion for learning new aspects of life everyday. On my journey to express myself I began blogging to share my ideas with others. Now I intend to write fun, interesting, and engaging content for my viewers to help them grow spiritually, physically, and mentally . The concept of belief systems and the law of attraction peak my interest!!! I believe blogging about my personal experiences, beliefs, and ideas is the best way to achieve these goals!!!

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