Rare Archive Photographs of Norway from the 1970s
Terje Abusdal from Norway found some color photographs documenting Norwegian life in the mid-1970s. They were taken by his grandfather, who took pictures for a local newspaper and for personal use. Abusdal compiled the archive images into a photo project recreating the Norway of the past, and restored the once lost memory of a family member.
Born in Evje, Norway, and lives in Oslo. Studied Advanced Visual Storytelling at the Danish School of Media and Journalism in Aarhus, attended masterclasses of Simon Norfolk and Aaron Schuman. His work was exhibited at the ShowOFF in Krakow and Luma Rencontres Dummy Book Award in Arles. In 2017, received the main prize at the Leica Oskar Barnack Awards.
In the 1970s, Norway has not yet gotten wealthy off oil. Forty years ago, it was not one of the top ten countries with the highest GDP per capita in the world. And nevertheless, Norwegians, just like the characters in Scandinavian movies, were happy about what they had — for instance, their slow paced life in Aust-Agder county. In those times, they had only one TV channel, plugged their phones into walls, didn’t buy IKEA sofas, and drank Coca Cola from glass bottles. Now, Norway is gradually consumed by globalization, and the differences between various regions of the country become less and less noticeable.
He was a community man and a zealous supporter of the local newspaper. He had a habit of signing up relatives and close friends and informing them later. When he eventually took over his father’s business — an Esso petrol station with a cafe — it quickly became a meeting place for locals and a junction for travelers on the road. For him it was home and he rarely left. My project is titled Radius 500 Metres, because most of the pictures were taken within half a kilometer from the gas station.
While going through the material I was looking for visual clues to my memory of my grandfather. Much time has passed though, so this was just as much a voyage of discovery as it was a nostalgic look back at my childhood. I remember him being a person who did not take himself seriously and who liked mischief. And what I found in the photographs seemed to confirm just that.
My grandfather was an important figure in my childhood. The hard part was to distance myself emotionally from the pictures. My favorite photographs were sometimes connected to a particular memory but not necessarily interesting for others.
We found the archive thanks to my uncle, who scanned all my grandfather’s negatives at some point. I saw the files and was immediately catapulted back into the world in which I grew up. A small town Norway in the 1980s in all its glory. I took on this project because I wanted to rediscover my childhood and my hometown. To see again where I came from, this time with the eyes of my grandfather.
The visuals are amazing. I am impressed by my grandfather’s photographic style. Today, many people are trying to deliberately do what he did unintentionally and organically, with great humor and respect.
Each town had its own character back then. More than now at least. The world is getting smaller and we all start to look the same.
Now everybody is worried about what we will do when the oil runs out. This is a look back at what we lived off before the oil came ashore from the North Sea. A testimony that it is possible to have well-being in a society with lower purchasing power.