Welcome to the streets of Oslo. Today, Norway’s Christian Svinddal walks us through this dynamic multicultural city, one candid 35mm photograph at a time. With these black and white slices of time, we get a glimpse into a city in motion. Following a stint overseas, Christian returned to Norway around two years ago and decided to call Oslo home. Today we join him as he rediscovers the city, where striking winter fashions are paraded along streets of Neoclassic and Modernist architecture.
How long have you been living in Oslo for?
I grew up a bit outside of Oslo, but moved abroad for study and work. I moved back two years ago, so I feel like I’m still rediscovering the city.
How would you describe Oslo to someone who hasn’t been there?
First thing that comes to mind is that Oslo looks and feels a bit simple and empty. But also open, airy and green. Oslo is by the sea, with large forests close by. Somehow you can feel nature close by. Oslo is undergoing considerable change; construction sites are everywhere and many areas look unfinished. Luckily there are still old parts of the city intact with a more “small town” feeling. Here you can find bars, cafes and small shops amongst old, colourful apartment buildings.
What is the culture like? How is it different from other places you’ve been?
As many cities in Europe, Oslo has a mix of many cultures: Norwegian, Middle Eastern, Asian etc. I would say the extreme weather and contrast in seasons makes Oslo very special. Because of the cold and dark winter months, people worship the sun in the summer. So when the weather is good, there is a big outdoors culture. People are partying, sunbathing and swimming in the sea, right in the city. Winter has its nice indoor moments. The more traditional Norwegian culture is mostly visible during Christmas. With trees and warm hearty food and drink.
When did you first start taking photos? Do you remember why?
My father is a photographer, so I guess photography has always been around me since as long as I can remember. I was lucky to have access to cameras and film from an early age, and took my first photos with my Olympus OM-1 when I was about 12. I took the camera with me on holidays to document the places we would visit.
What camera and film do you shoot with?
I have tried a few cameras over the last five years including an Olympus OM-1 and Nikon F3. But for the last six months or so, I have been using a Leica M6 with a 35mm lens. Filmwise, I shoot almost exclusively black and white on Kodak Tri-X or TMAX 100.
What are your favourite things to photograph in Oslo and why?
As I only shoot black and white, colours are irrelevant, while light means everything. I love low evening light with its brightness and deep, black shadows. My favourite thing is to find a scene with busy people of all kinds, moving in all directions, where I can capture a slice of our time. But really I point my camera towards anything.
Why is photography important to you?
Photography gets me out of the house. With my camera I can go anywhere and just enjoy being in the moment. The times when I shoot is when I feel totally free. My mind is not occupied with anything other than taking in visual information and framing a composition. It is a sort of necessary escapism.
Christian’s Tour of Oslo:
Your favourite neighbourhood:
Grønland is the area with the most immigrants and where you would experience Oslo at it most multicultural. This place feels very lively, which I like.
Your favourite place to eat:
Fiskeriet is a combined fish shop and restaurant. I love seafood and this place has many simple and delicious dishes with the freshest fish. And the smell reminds me of my grandparent’s fish shop that I hung out in as a child.
Your favourite place to drink:
Oslo is the place for great coffee! Fuglen serves amazing coffee in a really lovely and laid-back atmosphere surrounded by Norwegian vintage objects. They serve cocktails at night too!
Your favourite thing to do in your free time:
Take pictures and go for a walk with my wife.
Your favourite place to shop:
Shopping is always more exciting in an area with many independent shops. Grünerløkka is the place. Head here for fashion, vintage, interior and design shops.