This is a story of my family and our home in Norrbotten, Sweden. I have been taking photos of my family at the sea by our summer house in the Kalix archipelago over a period of 20 years. The series is an attempt to tell the story of the people and landscape of northern Sweden through the ritual of the sauna.

Here, in this barren archipelago, almost everything has been stripped away. Only the simple and essential elements remain. In the sauna, bodies sweat out the toils of the day, and slowly they soften, are cleansed, and eventually find their way back to their own rhythm. This universal and instinctual need to step into the hot room every night during the summer is reminiscent of a religious rite.

In Sweden, each generation carefully passes on their family’s history and life philosophy to the next. Rural areas present a borderland: a semi-magic place where totem poles become maypoles; where during the night, the sun does not set. Here, the half-tame raven befriends the dog, and the old, who are long gone, remain ever present. We live our lives. Our children are born and grow up. We age in joy and in sorrow.

By working with a slow, analogue technique, I try to find a visual language that is as bare, stripped and austere as the stark landscape itself. My project has slowly grown, adding a few new pictures every summer. The ones I have chosen have been given the time to mature with the passing of time.

The pictures taken in the water are photographed against a background of two tongues of land. These serve as reference points or a stage where life passes by. The children have grown up, and life has left its mark. Only nature is seemingly unmoved.

—Robert Blombäck

If you’re interested in more work like this, we’d recommend the following articles: Shared, a velvety black-and-white series on siblings by Nelli Palomäki; My Life, photographs shot on the bustling streets of Tokyo; and LA Nights, a project that highlights life in the dark hours of LA’s early mornings.