Devils, Nymphs, and Mermen Pop up in Ole Marius Jørgensen’s Photos of the Norwegian Wilds

Norwegian photographer Ole Marius Jørgensen is fascinated by the folktales of his homeland—and especially the otherworldly beings that populate them. Recently, he traveled to the country’s untamed north with his camera, in search of where they are said to reside. And in these lonely, wild places, he has made the creatures manifest.

The fruits of Jørgensen’s time up north will be on view in his solo show at Exhibit No. 9, kicking the gallery’s exhibition season. Titled “The Way North” (a translation of “Norway”), the show features evocative photographs of characters both devilish and benign, seen in their natural settings. A sea creature-cum-human appears in a blue-washed image, called Merman (2013). He stands on a wide rock, his powerful legs facing toward a chilly sea. A delicate and capacious net covers his entire body and extends over the rock, as if he has escaped the clutches of fishermen. 

We are taken firmly back onto land in Wood Nymph Huldra (2013), where the glowing nymph from the piece’s title appears against a dark, densely forested backdrop. Where her face would be, there is a warm, yellow spot of light, which contrasts with the shadows and mist surrounding her.

To create these haunting photographic visions, Jørgensen worked with costume designer Mikkel Brand Bugge. Through careful lighting, makeup, and costuming, the pair have transformed ordinary mortals into the extraordinary creatures that once dominated the collective Norwegian imagination. Posed in natural settings, they appear convincingly part of the terrain, as if they could be real. 

Taken together, the pictures reveal how earlier generations of Norwegians may have seen their surroundings. Looking out to sea, at a placid lake, or into a forest of pines, they might have caught a glow of light, a shadowy silhouette, or a rustling in the grass, and known that nature’s spirits and other beings were afoot. Though modern Norwegians have largely discarded these beliefs, in his photographs, Jørgensen does his best to bring them back.

—Karen Kedmey

The Way North” is on view at Exhibit No. 9, Asbury Park, New Jersey, May 1 – Jun. 13, 2015.

Follow Exhibit No. 9 on Artsy.