Tonje Bøe Birkeland The Characters
The Characters# I-IV is a retrospective book by Tonje Bøe Birkeland, that holds together her projects from the past eight years. Birkeland’s work explores the authenticity of history through self-portraits that recreate expeditions of female explorers and heroines from the past. Each of The Charactersmakes its own meta-journey: through Spitsbergen, Greenland, Mongolia and the mountains of Norway. These photographs expound time and place, while investigating personality and physical limits. Birkeland demonstrates that fantasy and photography can fill a void in history, while revealing some of contemporary society’s challenges: globalized colonization on the one hand and the loss of the great adventure on the other. The book is printed in 300 copies, each numbered by hand. The book was awarded Silver in the annual award “Årets Vakreste Bøker” (Photo/Art book) in 2016 (the year it was published).
“When you come across something, something old, as you touch it, you touch time. The air around your face carries the scent of an era, not of old and fungus but of body, powder, leather, perfume, gasoline: all the things that were there. All these unnecessary necessities that fill our lives, things that filled lives then. As you take hold of the object, you’re afraid of breaking it. Still you don’t want to let go. You inspect and sense: look, stroke, push, bend, turn and tilt. If it is wearable, you put it on. You search for the nearest mirror, making this thing a part of you.”
– Introduction,The Characters
artist: Tonje Bøe Birkeland
design: Anette L’orange,
publisher: Bergen Kjøtt Publishing
Jo Straube Det Norske Biblioteket
Over the last 30 years, the number of public libraries has been halved. In tight municipal budgets they are often abandoned in favor of urgent needs such as nursing homes and kindergartens, and when Internet and digital technology becomes more widespread in daily life, the libraries struggle to show that they are still relevant. Until one of my best friends told me how crucial childhood afternoons at the library had been to him, I somehow took the library for granted. He grew up with immigrant parents in a home without books and is today one of my most educated and well-read friends. According to him he would work at the shipyard as his father if it weren’t for the self-education he found at the library. As a promoter of free knowledge and culture for all, the library may constitute one of the cornerstones of an enlightened public. Along with the teachers, librarians constitute some of the most important cultural carriers in the country, but to really fulfill that role can be hard under limited budgets.
While working as a freelance photographer since 2010, Jo Straube has done some personal projects that all have dealt with democracy in different ways. When visiting Iceland after the financial crisis, the project became an exploration of the state of the – until then – admired country. When portraying people involved in and affected by Myanmar's democratic transition, it was in order to tell a more nuanced story of who is making the changes in the country, besides all too famous Nobel Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. The reason for driving thousands of miles to visit hundreds of libraries all around Norway was to document the condition of this democratic institution.
The book was awarded both Gold in the annual award “Årets Vakreste Bøker” (Photo/Art book) and “Årets Vakresete Bok” (The Most Beautiful Book of the Year) in 2017 (the year it was published).