When Elin Høyland heard about two elderly brothers, Harald and Mathias Ramen, living together in Tessanden, a small hamlet in rural Norway, she approached them to see if they would collaborate with her on a photographic project about their lives. The result is a fascinating and warmly human study of a way of life that has now almost entirely disappeared.
Harald (75) and Mathias (80) had always lived on the smallholding in which they were born. Neither had married. Mathias once worked in Oslo for two months, but hadn’t like it, whilst Harald spent one night, ‘the worst of his life,’ he would say, in a hotel in Lillehammer, some three hours away. They’d worked for an electricity company, as loggers and also as carpenters, but now much of their time was taken up just managing firewood for their home. As Harald said, they chopped wood, carried wood and burned wood. At least twice a day, they also fed wild birds in the twenty bird boxes that they monitored. Their days followed a predictable and comforting routine. In their free time they listened to the radio or read the local paper. Little changed from year to year, though Mathias once said that changes were happening the whole time and it would probably end up with them getting an inside toilet with running water. Harald died from an asthma attack while shovelling snow in conditions of –20ºc. Mathias continued to live alone in the house until he moved into an old people’s home. He died in 2007.
foto by Elin Høyland