Photographer Knut Egil Wang proves paradise can be just about anywhere, which, for Norwegians, is Syden.
The term, loosely translated the south,” is more a state of mind than a location. There is no common denominator beyond a vacation where the weather is warm and the water is close. Wang, a Norwegian living in LA, documented merry Norwegians enjoying quirky holidays around the world in his series Southbound, a photo book released earlier this year.
Syden may be a state of mind, but it’s best achieved in Spain, Cyprus, Turkey, and more exotic destinations like Thailand and Africa. Convenience and affordability play an important part in the journey to Syden. The most popular locations have a tropical climate, gorgeous beaches, direct (often chartered) flights, and lots of cheap booze. Vacationers go at all times of the year, staying anywhere from a few days to months at a time.
Some stay all winter, some have even moved there, says Wang. There are all kinds of people going there, and they all have different ways of spending their holiday. Most of them just take it easy and don’t do much. Others are more active, and the ones you hear about are perhaps too active (by drinking too much).”
Wang found that Norwegians spend their holiday much like they spend their days off—eating, relaxing and not doing much at all. For the more adventurous sort, there is swimming, hiking, sewing, and even language courses. Wang says long-stay vacationers tend to join Norwegian clubs that arrange variousactivities. The Syden spirit is strong, with local tourism and government offices sometimes catering to their Scandinavian visitors. In Gran Canaria, Spain, vacationing Norwegians staged a protest march when a beloved hiking spot was used as a dump site. Local authorities cleaned the area and later donated it to the travelers, now a tiny palm tree garden in an unlikely place.
Though they’re found everywhere thats balmy and bright, Wang did find photographing his countrymen challenging.
It was actually harder than I had expected, because as soon as people land they spread out to many different locations and might not be seen again until they get back on the plane, Wang says. And most of them do nothing that appeals to me as a photographer. I had to try to tell myself that boring must be the new exciting in this case, but that is particularly hard when you need to intrude into peoples long-awaited vacation. So my approach was a mix of just walking around, looking (and listening) for Norwegians, spending time with a selected few, and visiting all kinds of gatherings or activities that would attracts Norwegians.
After three years, Wangs Scandinavian scavenger hunt has become ahumorous chronicle of one countrys favorite pasttime. Though hes never taken such a holiday himself, the photographer admits he now could plan the perfect getaway. One of these days, Wang just may put away his camera and soak up some sun in Syden.