Friday, 28 December 2012

Street photography

Henrik Nor-Hansen

In Vancouver I found a huge grocery store that had good natural light from the ceiling. I decided to do a project about shopping. I was interested in that glassy look some people get when being bored or overly tired.

But it turned out that I was underestimating the customers at the store. I was on their turf, and I soon got rounded up by a mob of hockey moms, or just suburban women in general. One of them shouted that I photographed her nine year old daughter. This is when I realized that further arguing could be difficult.

I told them about my art project. I thought this would prove that I was not perverse. But knowing about my project enraged them even more. Why? Because taking pictures of people in a shopping mall was not art.

Then I suddenly knew these women. I grew up in the same kind of suburban neighborhood. Canada or Norway, it doesn't matter. It's a kind of inflamed anger that's really puzzling.

They demanded the pictures deleted. I knew they had no right to do so, but what the heck. Who cares? Next time I will just use a more compact camera, with a silent shutter.

Fred Herzog (born 1930) is a Canadian photographer, and many of his pictures have become icons of Vancouver's short history. He once said that it was way easier to do street photography in the past. Now we're all paranoid.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

The voice in Phoenix

Henrik Nor-Hansen (photo)

Henrik Nor-Hansen (photo)

There was a man drinking by the hotel pool. He had heard a voice that lured him out on a field in the back of the place. There wasn't anything out there. Just scrubs and windblown plastic.

He'd been walking half drunk through the dark, wearing sweatpants and flip-flops. Suddenly the voice told him to stop drinking. He thought it was odd.

Finally he eased back to the pool and had another drink. He then told me about the voice. I didn't know what to say. None of us were into chitchat and we parted after a while, without really saying anything.

Later I passed outside his room. He was sitting on the bed, watching TV. There was a huge explo- sion and he leant slowly forward in the orange gloom.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Fort St. John

photo: Henrik Nor-Hansen

Driving north in British Columbia our Canadian friends told us that we better curb our enthusiasm for Fort St. John. 

"Most of the town has sprung up the last decades. It's more or less a provisional centre for the surrounding oil industry. In fact, you'll see it's downright ugly. There's also a terrible wind blowing dust all through the damn summer. This time of year it's wet though. Mud will cake to your shoes. Forget everything you've ever known about mud. This is mud like you would not believe it. Cars stop dead in their tracks. Venture out on these dirt roads and you'll be stuck for good."

I've always felt sympathetic with people who can tell the truth about their home town. If we wanted Disneyland, we would have gone to Disneyland.

photo: Henrik Nor-Hansen

Anger in its nature

photo: Henrik Nor-Hansen

I'm wondering why people living close to wildlife often develop anger towards certain animals. During our prolonged stay in Canada I've heard people bad-mouthing wolves, coyotes, foxes, snakes, gray jays, crows, ravens, rabbits, mice, pack rats, squirrels, porcupines, skunks, bears and eagles.

Sometimes the anger spills over to nature itself, as some kind of evil that has to be beaten down. It's a constant battle. There's too much of everything.

I know this attitude from Norway - and it's still going on, even though the wilderness is long gone.

photo: Henrik Nor-Hansen

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Going south

photo: Henrik Nor-Hansen

One of the things I love about photography is the way it turns around a boring situation, like waiting for the bus in the early morning.

It was 6.30 in Fort St. John, and people were still in a state of slumber. But maybe they didn't see any point in waking up, since most of them were heading south on a very long bus ride.

photo: Henrik Nor-Hansen

photo: Henrik Nor-Hansen

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

In the middle of nowhere

photo: Henrik Nor-Hansen

The Greyhound bus stops in the middle of nowhere. Or so it seems. The passengers have become kind of careless about all these places. Canada is a vast country, and the distances involved can wear your interest down. So on this stop I see only a few heads turning, like 'how can anybody live here?'

Most of the passengers go out to stretch their legs or have a smoke. I'm eavesdropping quite a bit. We've been on the bus for hours and I'm bored. But then I feel slightly uneasy when a couple of guys starts talking about the beheading some years back. That was also on a Greyhound bus, leaving people in a state of shock on the darkening Trans-Canada Highway.

I'm puzzled when my fellow passengers somehow find it likely that the victim must have pissed off the guy. I guess they have a need to think away the randomness, but does it make the beheading more likely?

The bus continues through vast areas of dead pines. It's the brown beetle infested woods that's been around us for hours. 

Monday, 23 July 2012

Arguing about the last leg

From the inside of the cabin I could hear him getting angry. Swearing, banging the walls. But now the leg was mine.

Photo: Henrik Nor-Hansen

Monday, 2 July 2012

Bad dog

We drove into the woods. We had arranged a meeting with an elderly couple, living on a buffalo farm.

They had several hash brown dogs that obviously weren't used to strangers. In the barking and general commotion it broke out a fight between two of them.

henrik Nor-Hansen

The biggest dog had the smallest by the throat, shaking it like a rat. It wouldn't let go even though I pulled by the hind legs. The owners decided that this was it and went for the gun. 

We drove off with the bad dog chasing. The couple talked each other up to go through with the plan, even though the whole thing seemed more on the spur of the moment. I kept looking out the rear window. It was kind of strange to see a dog running to its own execution, but the dog was mean and I guess he had it coming. 

The couple disagreed about where to do it. Finally he just stopped the car, rolled down the window and grabbed the rifle. She suggested that he better step out. Shooting from inside the car would surely burst our eardrums.

I couldn't really see anything from where I was sitting. The rifle sounded flat and sharp. He came back and we took off. He was still agitated, red-faced. After a while she said it was stupid to leave the dog where we left it. Sooner or later some hunters would pass by, and wonder.

Henrik Nor-Hansen

We took the dog by the legs and started swinging. We threw it down a slope on the count of three, leaving a trail of blood in the snow.

Back in the cabin they kept talking about the dog. I guess they needed to justify the killing. We where standing on the newly painted floor when I noticed a speck of blood between us. It was kind of strange because it wasn't smeared out by the shoes. We started to look up towards the ceiling. Did it drop from somewhere? We never found out.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Stress in the city

In Vancouver we bought an expensive herbal tea. It tasted like rotten grass but was supposed to have a calming effect. After five cups of this I realized it had no effects whatsoever. Thinking about the price I even got a bit upset.

Henrik Nor-Hansen

Friday, 15 June 2012

The buffaloes

Suddenly I heard Nina shout: "Hey, where have you been?" I had no idea. I was walking around with a heavy buffalo head, not really sure where to put it.

Henrik Nor-Hansen (photo)

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Green orbs

I took three exposures of this house, all within a couple of minutes. The exposure time varied from 2-8 seconds. I didn't see anything strange, but later I realized that all the exposures had these green orbs over the house, at the exact same spot. 

Henrik Nor-Hansen (photo)

Of course, I could have made those orbs in Photoshop. It wouldn't be difficult. But the thing is I didn't, so I'm a bit puzzled. You can click on the image and see for yourself.

Apparently the UFO sightings are numerous in Alaska. The theory goes that aliens are interested in gold, which again merge with the conspiracy revolving around the US government and a sudden devaluation of the dollar. You may wonder why the American currency should be under attack from outer space. Is it a more plausible explanation than budgets out of balance?

However, we shouldn't be so occupied with intelligent life in space. We should rather look for intelligent life on earth. It may not exist.

Friday, 8 June 2012

A global view on architecture

I've always felt that Nome is one of those places on the edge of the world. It's just about to tip over. Some of the houses have tipped in their own ways, standing on stilts that have sunk down in the summer melt.

But new houses are also being built, and for some reason these facade-like boxes seemed to be in fashion.

Photo: Henrik Nor-Hansen

I mentioned this to a guy from the lower 48. We were sitting in Polar Bar and there wasn't really much to talk about. There's a lot of strange houses here in Nome, I claimed. He'd probably done some traveling because he had this theory that houses got stranger the further north you came. What's more, you could see the same tendency south in the southern hemisphere meaning that all houses, and architecture in general, got weirder towards the poles. I asked if it would mean that architecture was at its best at equator. I doubt it, he said.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Miniature thinking

Henrik Nor-Hansen (photo)

The last decades we've seen several artists building meticulous models of houses and cities, as a twisted representation of reality. What is less talked about is the somewhat vague notion of the opposite.

Henrik Nor-Hansen (photo)

Friday, 1 June 2012

The drunk woman in Nome

A drunk native came up and asked if I was taking pictures. She asked if I wanted to photograph her, but being drunk she had some problems standing still under the long exposures. I was getting frustrated because I knew the pictures would be good if she only could stop moving. Then it turned out she thought I was making a movie. We got that sorted out, but suddenly she lost interest and took off.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012


I've always liked airports. I like how people from all over the world drift through and fluctuate in the transparency of modern architecture. People become a part of the surface. They are all well dressed and beautiful, passing by as shadows and ghosts.

Photo: Henrik Nor-Hansen

I guess a pop artist like, say Andy Warhol, would have loved these new international airports. It's like they have a surface of teflon where nothing emotional really sticks. We're all just passing through. We have no purpose beyond going on a business trip or a holiday.

Photo: Henrik Nor-Hansen

Traveling has become the empty eye which so much of our modern living is revolving around; we're confusing traveling with the wild idea that our lives are getting somewhere. Discovering that we're going nowhere we put up blogs as a metaphor for change.

Photo: Henrik Nor-Hansen

Vancouver, Phoenix, Toronto, Copenhagen; it's this kind of prolonged suffering that we all love to talk about. Restlessness clocks us.

Photo: Henrik Nor-Hansen

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Moosehead Bar

The camera was on a tripod and I waited for someone to come out of the bar. It might be a good shot, but I waited and waited and were wondering if it was a waste of time on a Tuesday night.

Finally I walked over and opened the door. A couple of skinny guys turned their heads, eyes peering through the dim light. Would anybody ever leave?

I returned to the camera. I waited a bit more, then I started to wonder if I saw a stuffed moose head anywhere on the walls inside. I wondered if it could really be that plain.

I decided to go back for another look. The bartender looked at me. "You again," he said.