Photographs by Elin Høyland.
Dewi Lewis Publishing, 2011. 96 pp., 45 duotone illustrations, 12¼x9".
When Elin Høyland heard about two elderly brothers, Harald and Mathias
Ramen, living together in Tessanden, a small hamlet in rural Norway, she
approached them to see if they would collaborate with her on a photographic
project about their lives. The result is a fascinating and warmly
human study of a way of life that has now almost entirely disappeared.
Harald (75) and Mathias (80) had always lived on the smallholding in
which they were born. Neither had married. Mathias once worked in Oslo
for two months, but hadn’t like it, whilst Harald spent one night, ‘the worst
of his life,’ he would say, in a hotel in Lillehammer, some three hours away.
They’d worked for an electricity company, as loggers and also as carpenters,
but now much of their time was taken up just managing firewood for
their home. As Harald said, they chopped wood, carried wood and burned
wood. At least twice a day, they also fed wild birds in the twenty bird
boxes that they monitored. Their days followed a predictable and comforting
routine. In their free time they listened to the radio or read the local
paper. In the 1960s they rented a TV for a one month trial but returned it
after deciding that it took up too much time. Little changed from year to
year, though Mathias once said that changes were happening the whole
time and it would probably end up with them getting an inside toilet with
running water. Harald died from an asthma attack while shovelling snow in
conditions of –20ºc. Mathias continued to live alone in the house until he
moved into an old people’s home. He died in 2007.