For decades the people living in Hessdalen valley in Norway have been obsessed by spotting UFO’s. Photographer Ivar Kvaal and writer Ola Vikås visited the valley to find out why.
Ola Vikås writes: “Hessdalen had already been drained of its life force when the first lights started to appear in the valley. At a time when the cold war still enveloped Scandinavia in a fog of secrecy and uncertainty, in a climate where people were historically or indeed traditionally ‘closed’, it took quite some time before anyone dared to speak about what they had seen. Not even the neighbours, who were part of a close yet ever-shrinking community, were aware that they were witnessing the same phenomenon night after night.
During the cold nights of December 1981, change finally arrived. The lights that had come to Hessdalen had shone brightly enough to attract the attention of sources that lay outside of the village. With the arrival of an eager press corps, the otherwise remote valley embarked on a whole new chapter in its history. From being a village that did not have anything exceptional to offer – with just a church, a community centre, a general store – Hessdalen soon became a gathering place, a point of reference, for a diverse group whose only common interest was in searching for something they could not understand.
The long hoped-for attention, however, only brought ridicule and stigmatisation.”
“Kvaal’s project Hessdalen is a meditation on the human desire to experience the otherworldly while simultaneously playfully implicating photography in its contradictory roles in mystification and evidence. Hessdalen Valley in central Norway is the site of decades of inexplicable displays of light. Once a thriving mining community, it has now become one of those forlorn frontiers where the mysterious and the desperate coincide to produce a new culture of wonder and paranoia. Kvaal does not try to prove or disprove the various theories that attempt to explain the phenomena. As if to provide atmosphere to Kvaal’s documents, a few images of the ephemeral float within his sequence of portraits of witnesses and believers and the technological and handmade tools that spring from an environment that exists somewhere between logic and delusion.” / Mark Durant
54 color images + archival images and press cuttings • Text by Ola Vikås • Editing: Ivar Kvaal, Aslak Gurholt, Gösta Flemming • Design: Aslak Gurholt • Hard cover • 200 x 240 mm • 120 pages • English • 2018
Selected for The Photobook Exhibition, Athens Photo Festival 2018, Greece.
Diploma in Grafill’s Beautiful Books Award 2019, Norway.