Northern Silence

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André Frère Éditions, 2022. First edition.
Hardcover, 128 pp., 74 b/w and 18 color illustrations, 240 x 320 mm. Photographs by Cato Lein. Text by Sophie Allgardh (English / French). Design by Joao Linneu, Fernanda Fajardo.

The images at Northern Silence were taken during a period of twenty-five years, from the mid-1980s to 2012. But it was not until recently that he could face dealing with the material and he booked one of the few darkrooms available in Stockholm. With the exception of a powerful panoramic photograph of a single ship on the fjord that leads to his home village, the pretention is reduced. The mood is dull with a blackness that rather reminds one of the sharp contrasts belonging to social documentary photography than to classic landscape photography.

The Arctic Ocean is illuminated by a full moon or by the Northern Lights with its dancing colours. A golden eagle on a rock-ledge or Barents Sea as a brilliant aquamarine shining on the dazzling white snow. It is hard not to surrender to the overwhelming spectacle of nature and Finnmark in Northern Norway is hardly short of photographic interpreters. Cato Lein, who grew up in the tiny fishing village Båtsfjord on the Varanger Peninsula at the end of the Russian tundra and the Gulf stream, was not convinced about his own contribution as a photographer.The flood of postcard pictures invaded him with a sense of muteness – a fear of having lost touch with the spirit of the place.

It was not until he had been working as a photographer for several years in Stockholm that he was ready to face the landscape of Finnmark anew, this time with his own expression and aesthetics. Now, he would also enter the Sami area of Inner Finnmark, which for him was a completely unknown region. The image of the cloudberry mire covered in white flowers with its tear and jagged light shows a delicacy that sparks my interest. In another image, when the paper was stuck in the emulsion, he presents the graphic qualities. The Finnmark landscape is not the same as when Cato Lein grew up. During the last fifty years, it has become warmer, and the tundra is on the verge of disappearing. On the bare granite mountains from the past, moss is now growing and the Arctic birches have been replaced by slender birch trees. In the book, he captures the transformed landscape in a dark, striking image that spans a two-page spread.


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