Slash & Burn
by Terje Abusdal
Published by Kehrer Verlag Heidelberg Berlin, Germany, 2018
19,2 x 24 cm. 180 pages. 96 color and b/w ills. English.
Essay by Aaron Schuman and Birger Nesholen.
Design by Teun van der Heijden / Heijdens Karwei
Concept, editing and art-direction: developed in the 2016 photobook-making masterclass by Yumi Goto, Sandra van der Doelen and Teun van der Heijden, in collaboration with Reminders Photography Stronghold.
Finalist at the Luma Rencontres Dummy Book Award 2017, at Unseen Dummy Award 2017 and Alec Soth’s Juror’s Pick at the Magnum Photography Awards, among others.
Finnskogen – directly translated as The Forest of the Finns – is a large, contiguous forest belt along the Norwegian-Swedish border, where farming families from Finland settled in the early 1600s. The immigrants – called Forest Finns – were slash-and-burn farmers. This ancient agricultural method yielded bountiful crops but required large areas of land as the soil was quickly exhausted. Population growth eventually led to a scarcity of resources in their native Finland and, fuelled by famine and war, forced a wave of migration in search for new territories.
The Forest Finns’ understanding of nature was rooted in an eastern shamanistic tradition, and they are often associated with magic and mystery. Rituals, spells and symbols were used as a practical tool in daily life; that could heal and protect, or safeguard against evil.
This photographic project draws on these beliefs while investigating what it means to be a Forest Finn today, in a time when the 17th century way of life is long gone, and their language is no longer spoken.
Throughout Slash & Burn, the conventional clarity of the photographic image is often blurred and obscured – by smoke, mist, vapour, dust and darkness – which transform the solidity of the world we think we know into something much more ethereal and atmospheric. (...) And in a sense, when it comes to this field, Abusdal’s artistic approach is in itself a form of slash-and-burn cultivation, in that through various forms of photographic disorientation, deconstruction and destruction, he creates a new, fertile layer of information and meaning; photographic ashes which are rich with the nutrients needed for newfound notions of personal understanding and cultural identity to grow.
—from the text by Aaron Schuman