||House that was Home
The quiet photographs made by Oyvind Hjelmen are intimate philosophical explorations of time, memory, history, loss, (photography itself), and more. Over the past decade, this Norwegian photographer has covered many genres: some staged, some documentary, some merely beautiful celebrations of light and nature.
In this series, he documents the last bits of once-prized possessions in an old house, as the house is gradually emptied after the person who lived there has died.
Hjelmen says, “These images are about what happens when a house that was home to a family for several generations, one day is being cleared out to be sold. What is left when all the little objects, once so precious, and all the pictures that were on the walls are gone? What stories do the empty – or near empty – walls tell? What is left in an empty room?”
These moody photographs are not necessarily melancholy, nostalgic, or romantic. Rather, they demonstrate a peaceful, hushed acceptance and mute wonder at how things come and go in the world.
The manner with which Hjelmen chooses to share these images with us is equally thoughtful and deliberate. The relatively small square photos (12 x 12 cm) invite an intimacy with the viewer. Each masterly printed black-and-white photograph can be held in the hand like a small fragile bird, and viewed with a sense of wonder at the delicate richness of detail and the beauty of imperfections.
These are images of abandoned spaces — once alive, but now, in these precious hand-held testaments to memory, quiet and still, but never empty.
The photos reverberate with a visual language of archetypes, memories and dreams. Hjelmen is a master of letting light do its job in photography. The flat, even, wintry window-light evokes a sense of stillness and quiet in this inner architecture. It brings to mind the dimming of life, and the diminished light of memory. The light of dreams is here as well, with objects like a old hockey stick and a chipped mirror looming out at us from inside a nearly empty unlit closet.
These are not quick and easy photos to appreciate, but they are rich and rewarding. Spend some quiet time alone with these photographs, and allow them to speak with you. I believe you will be enriched by the experience.
— Jim Casper
[A limited edition of a signed photograph from this series is now available for purchase online here.]