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Elf Dalia.

Photographs by Maja Daniels.
Mack, London, England, 2019. In English. Unpaged, 8½x11½".

Selected as one of the Best Books of 2019 by:
Publisher's Description


Shortlisted for the 2019 Paris Photo-Aperture Foundation First PhotoBook Award.

Most of the inhabitants of the Swedish valley of Älvdalen still speak Elfdalian, an ancient language with strong links to the Vikings’ Old Norse. How it has managed to persist to this day remains a mystery because the community has never been completely isolated.

In 1668 events in Älvdalen sparked the birth of the Swedish witch-hunts, when 20 women and one man were executed on the basis of testimonies provided by witnesses who were mainly children. The first witch-story involved a girl from Älvdalen called Gertrud who had been reported for walking on water, a story which later spread via a famous illustration, first to Germany and then further afield to Salem, Massachusetts.

In 1935 a man called Tenn Lars Persson (1878 –1938) spoke on national radio in Elfdalian about sorcery and the Black Book of Magic. An avid collector of local history, he photographed his community extensively but he also used photography in his astronomy and physics experiments, which included building a telescope and photographing the moon. Between 2001 and 2017 Maja Daniels, a photographer and sociologist with family ties to Älvdalen, began working in the region, inspired by the current generational shift, where negotiations and tensions between modern lifestyles and tradition including the preservation of a strong cultural identity imbued with mysticism represent an important contemporary struggle.

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