I In 1926, the yearbook of the Swedish Tourist Board described the village of Älvdalen as a "community with a dark island spirit" in which the locals were "shadowed by mistrust and discomfort". In 1668, the Swedish witch hunts began, after which 19 girls and one man were executed, who were suspected of occultism. One senses that the tourism association believed that the stigma lingers into the 20th century. "It's not easy to be close to them," the yearbook added, "especially if you do not speak their language."
Today, Älvdalen in western Sweden still has its own language, Elfdalian dating back to Old Norse, the tongue of the Vikings. Sweden-born photographer Maja Daniels spent many of her childhood summer here in a hut built by her grandparents in the forest by the river.
"Älvdalen is one of the things I call home," she says. "My grandparents talked to Elfdalians, whose continued existence baffles linguists, but for me it's also a personal puzzle, since I can not speak it." The language has recently revived, with scholarships awarded to 1
In 2012 Daniels began working on Älvdalen and three years later, as her fascination increased, she left London and moved back there. "I registered as a Swedish teacher at an asylum center 30 kilometers outside Älvdalen," she says. "I worked there for six months. However, after receiving a work grant, I lived in the cabin for three years.
Given the severe winters in the area, which is considered the coldest area, this must have been an adaptation of Sweden. "I was often defeated by the weather and sometimes completely isolated from snow and ice," she says. "I spent a lot of time in and around the cabin and dived into the forest. The rest of the time I've been working with the local community.
The result is Elf Dalia, a fascinating, mysterious photobook that unites Daniel's often impressionistic images of the landscape and her mostly young people with a fascinating archive of photographs of one of the local eccentric Tenn Lars Persson, who was born there in 1878 and Died in 1938.
"Tenn Lars was interested in what might be called natural magic – knowledge of astrology, alchemy, the occult and the hidden power of plants, animals and stones. Although only four years as a child at school, he became a self-taught, electrician, optician, inventor, photographer and scientist. In many ways he was a magician of his time. "
Persson made his own cameras and lenses and constructed a telescope to study and photograph the moon. He is remembered as the man who brought electricity to Älvdalen, and for his lectures on the wonders of the solar system and plant life. For Daniels, his monochrome photographs of the landscape and the people of Älvdalen distill the feeling of miracle and mystery that drew them there. "I felt a deep connection to his work," she says. "I wanted to initiate a dialogue with him to emphasize the unique, almost eccentric spirit of the place."
This visual dialogue gives the book a mystery and at the same time undercuts it. Persson's photographs accentuate both the everyday and the otherness of the community, with the locals dressed up for parties and their faces sometimes drawn by him, while Daniel's mainly color images are elusive.
Their rural landscapes suggest human presence – exposed forests, the glare of street lamps being filtered through trees, young men racing their cars through extensive forest trails. Other more impressionistic images use sunlight, shadows and sparks to awaken the natural natural secrets of the elemental Swedish landscape. In several portraits, faces are completely or partially obscured by strangers, while people they know are shown in close-up. Throughout, you will be gently reminded that she is an outsider despite family relationships.
Former documentary filmmaker Daniels is best known for his series Monette & Mady, which has identical twins who are inextricably linked throughout their lives. with matching clothes and incredibly synchronized gestures. Elf Dalia marks from her invented title a descent into a conceptually driven visual suggestion. "Changing that work has changed my way of thinking about the photo," she says. "There has been more about what I can do to do it and not what it represents."
In addition to under- and overexposing her photographs, Daniels sometimes dropped light into the exposure Film roles "to let go of my control, but also to evoke the feeling of presence from another world – into which I had in some way invited."
The sense of a contemporary community, which is to some extent shadowed by a darker, stranger past and unseen things, is reflected in the recording of a prose poem Myriadmouth by Andrea Lundgren. Their spells evoke the secrets of the "dark night" and the "forest mouth" as well as the "great silence" of the wooded valley.
Nevertheless, Daniel's book is a very modern, perhaps even postmodern, meditation on the spot, memory, myth, and allegiance. "Elf Dalia is a fictitious word that derives from the name of the language but refers to a place," she says. "I wanted to make sure the book was not read too easily. Despite working with a real community, its history and its language, Elf Dalia is a place I have created to some extent. If someone looks at the work and decides to visit Älvdalen, he risks disappointment.
• Elf Dalia by Maja Daniels is published by MACK.