Janne Robberstad

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Familylife in the lighthouses

By spotogspindel | March 31, 2014

Today is the grand opening of my exhibition: Family-life in the lighthouses. The touring exhibition started in Lindesnes Lighthouse, Norway´s most southern tip of land. (I checked today: there´s a 225 degrees horizon up by the lighthouse!) Since my first visit here two years ago, I´ve been working with these pictures, researching, reading, and the actual picture-making. The more I read, the more inspired I was by the women who helped their husbands run the lighthouses, making these isolated houses into cozy homes, bringing up children, educating them, getting food on the table, basically keeping the everyday-life going, keeping the family-life together. All almost untold stories of everyday-life heroines!

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So my main focus and theme for the exhibition was just that: the everyday life of families at the lighthouses. And I have to tell you that I am more than a little impressed with what I´ve learned. Strong and pragmatic women, getting the job done, not much fussing about, keeping it all going, they are true role-models!

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All in all there are 23 pictures in the exhibition. All of them are made with original photos from Lindesnes´ old photo-archive.

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The technique used is a digital photo-collage: a mix of old and new photographs, painting, old documents, maps, wallpapers, and so on. Everything photographed or scanned and then mixed digitally. And finally printed onto 60×90 cm white aluminum boards.

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The theme in all pictures are of everyday-life, some work and some play, some chores and some relaxation. Some in the summer, some in the winter, and only in one picture can you actually see a light-house. Most of the original photos are from the 1950s and 60s. And most of them are from Breistein and Hatholmen lighthouses. These pictures are at the same time both historical factual in their original photo-base and also my very own nostalgic fantasy.

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Well, let the tour begin!:

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“Håvard and his ladies” A rare photo from a windless and sunny summer day. Time to get out the bathing-suits and have a swim and to get some vitamin D!

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 “Row, row, row your boat…” Children had to learn to row and to swim early. And the first thing to learn is to respect the moods of  Mother Nature: the water and the wind! But learning is fun, and especially when the craft is mastered, and you are able to taxi your older relatives (or your governess) to and from the islands.

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“The cool guy”. Most lighthouses are so close to the ocean, and so close to unrested waters, that there is hardly any snow for longer periods of time. So when the snow finally comes, you have to take advantage of it! Building snowmen is a must!

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“A wider horizon” Living so close to the sea, I imagine that one longs to see what is beyond the horizon. Hopefully this is a longing in human nature also in a symbolic meaning of the words:a wish to broaden ones horizon, through knowledge, through openly embracing new ideas, through getting rid of prejudice… One can hope.

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“Billy-cart-Clara” The children were also an important part in the work of running the lighthouses. The had lots of chores, big and small. But there was also time for fun through learning practical woodworks and other crafts. I don´t know if the billy-cart is made by the kids or their father, but they sure look proud!

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“Silent waters” Another rare, windless day, without a ripple on the little pond. Perfect for sailing the toy-sailing-boats. and having a picnic on the naked rock-faces.

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“Just add color” An important part of the job as light-keeper is to take care of the buildings. Since the weather is so rough, houses need painting every year in some places. And the few days when the weather is good, time needs to be used to the max.

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“Bubbles” Learning practical chores started early, and every member of the family contributed in several ways.

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“Family-life at the lighthouse”. The only lighthouse pictured in the series is from Breistein. I like the angle of the photographer, you really do get a sense of the towering lighthouse.

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“The trio on the steps”  This is the oldest photo in the series, probably from around the 1910s. Some lighthouses were bigger than others, and there could live several families there. All with different chores and jobs.

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“Grab a crab” A lot of the food came from the sea, naturally. Crabs were a seasonal delicacy.

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“Herring-Harry and the big fish!” Fish, all sorts of fish were eaten. Both children and adults knew how to catch, how to gut and how to prepare fish.

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“Hans´ hens” Eggs were another rich source of food. Some of the lighthouses kept hens, but they might have added to the menu with eggs from wild birds (like gulls) too.

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“Gudrun the goat-keeper”. The families had to be as self-supplied as possible. They could be isolated at the lighthouses at longer periods at a time. Keeping goats was just one of the animals to provide food. Goats give nutritious milk, and can find their own food in the scares of places, climbing the steep cliffs in their search.

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“Laura, Bruno and the world”. This picture is from Lindesnes, a large lighthouse with several families, where they even had a cow. The girls name is really Laura, and the cows name really is Bruno. I am trying to imagine how living in a relatively small world and safe  social environment like a light-house is, and at the same time learning about the world, of other countries, other cultures. What does the imagination grasp? But then again, I think there is a lot we don´t grasp about their solitare type of life, so it´s a two-way-wonder.

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“Potato-cake-potatoes” In addition to the all the seafood, they needed vegetables and fruits. The soil was salty from all the harsh weather, so only hardy plants would survive. But potatoes and turnips would survive. As did several herbs.

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Ella and Normann” lived at Hatholmen lighthouse for 20 years. A lot of the pictures in this exhibition came from Normann. He´s willingly shared stories about his life at the lighthouse, and I am so thankful that he gave so many of his photos to Lindesnes´ archive! Without him and his will to share, this exhibition would be very different.

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“Yes-thank-you, it´s steaming in here!” Daily chores: washing, drying, ironing, mending, sewing… And did I mention that they didn´t have any electricity? They used paraffin and a wood-burning stove.

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“Psalm-Sunday in socks” She didn´t want to out-wear her best shoes, so she choses to walk in just her socks until they reach the city, just to spare them. You don´t get much of that anymore, do you!?!

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“A dog for amaryllis” . I remember my grandmothers fine amaryllis´ and how they were the pride of her window-pane-flowers. On a sunny summer day Ella has taken her pride out to soak in the sunlight. Her little dachas-dog is paying close attention.

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“Gull for dinner” I chose this picture to be the poster-picture, because I think it speaks volumes! I love how she gets her gun, goes out and shoots a gull, and prepares it for dinner. It says something about being self-sufficient, the no-fuzz-just-get-it-done type of lady, about being pragmatic and down-to-earth. I admire this woman! She´s a surviver! (I don´t even want to start thinking about all the knowledge that is lost in all areas when it comes to being self-sufficient)

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“I got an eye for you” Ella´s son in the lighthouse. What he´s looking at, we can only guess.

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“Naked rock fishing” Doesn´t this seem like just the perfect summer day?

Topics: Art, exhibition | 1 Comment »

One Response to “Familylife in the lighthouses”

  1. michelle Says:
    March 31st, 2014 at 21:28

    beautiful collection of work Janne! the colors, images & textures are very striking and lovely. i’m sure your opening will be a smash! xoxo- m

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