My good colleague and friend Øystein Mikalsen and I have been on the road again. We are doing a story for the Norwegian Magasinet, a weekend supplement to the national paper Dagbladet. In about five days we have been touring the whole of southern Norway. Looking for Norwegians of all kinds and shapes. The story is very simple in its form. It’s going to be about what Norwegians think about their own country. For better or worse. And the approach is very simple, too. Whenever we meet a Norwegian who, for whatever reasons looks interesting to us, we stop him or her; ask the one question, that is my friend asks, while I take a bunch of photos. It’s all very random, while at the same time we try to find a broad variety of persons, so that the article when it’s finally printed will show something that would be representative of Norway and its inhabitants. For that same reason we sometime seek out special people or demographic groups, such as farmers, bikers, business men, designers or artists. But mostly it’s about random encounters along the road. For us this is an incredible fun and fulfilling way to work. You don’t know what you get, but just have to be open to anything that presents itself.
We did the same kind of story in the States last autumn. Then we rented a convertible Mustang and toured the whole West Coast of the United States. Back then we asked what US Americans think about their country – of course. As journalists, either writing or photographing, we have never had such a good time before. For the same reasons as for our Norwegian tour. It’s something to do with the randomness, the unpredictability, the adventurous circumstances that makes this approach incredibly fulfilling. Maybe even more so in the States, because there people are more willing to give of themselves in the meeting with a journalist and a photographer. They don’t care about what others might think – on the contrary they’d rather stand out. US Americans are perfect for the tabloid press, so to speak. And in this instance it works perfectly well. We met the sheriff, the hotel owner, the homeless, the black construction worked, white trash, the immigrant, the scholar, and the old hippie couple. What struck us in comparison with the Norwegians is how patriotic the US Americans are. Super patriotic. They talk loud and proud about their freedom – but have less of an idea what it actually consists of. Even the homeless think the US is a better country to be homeless in than any other country. And they all talk a lot about the freedom to carry weapons, which for us Norwegians are way out there. Really strange.
The US story was published in Magasinet last autumn and was spread out over no less than 11 pages. Hopefully the Norwegian equivalent will run at least as big. We still need to do a couple of trips more, though. In July we will head up north and continue the quest there. Later updates to come, thus…
The picture here is from the US story.