An autumn day in 2012, the Norwegian photographer Helge Skodvin walked around his hometown of Bergen where the streets were full of Volvos in the most wonderful colors; brown, green, turquoise – you name it. It gave him inspiration for the biggest Volvo photo project ever: 240 Norwegian landscapes with a Volvo 240 somewhere in the image.
2,850,000 Volvo 240 cars were made between 1974 and 1993. It became the car of choice of the Nordic countries. 84,287 were sold in Norway. “More than any other car, the Volvo 240 became a symbol of Scandinavian and Nordic values,” says Helge Skodvin on his website.
Skodvin spent four years photographing the Volvo 240. Every time he came across a Norwegian-registered model of the classic Swedish-made car series, he noted the license plate number, looked it up in the Official Car Register to find out who owned the car. He then tracked down where the owner lived and organized everything into his own, increasingly extensive archive. He then searched Google View and studied whether the place looked good or not.
At regular intervals, Skodvin set out on the road in his own car, a Volvo XC70, or a rental car, treading winding small roads, covering counties and parts of the country systematically. He has even been to Svalbard. However, most of the pictures are shot in Southern Norway, where his wife has family.
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Symbol of Nordic values
More than any other car, the 240 became a symbol of Nordic and Norwegian values. The safe, the sound, the commonplace. Square and homely, yet solid and reliable. Function over form. No frills. Taking you from A to Z. A car. An ambassador for the Scandinavian social democracy.
It’s interesting that a vehicle can in some way resemble or reflect a person or country/state. It’s an interesting point to have been discovered and the way that Skodvin photographs these cars, with such subtlety and tranquility, parked amongst beautiful landscapes of Norway.
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Never more than one car in each picture
Skodvin has photographed the cars from a distance, silently waiting in their natural habitat. Half-hidden behind barns, peeking out of garage doors and abandoned on snowy farmyards; in a documentary style inspired by American photographers such as Stephen Shore and Jon Sternfeld. There is never more than one car in each picture. No people. Just the backdrops, the everyday contemporary landscape.
“With these photographs, I want to show how we live, how our surroundings look. I wish to portray the everyday landscape. A photographic documentation of the landscape we inhabit,” said Skodvin.
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It resulted in the book “240 Landscapes” in Swedish/English as well as Norwegian/English versions. Hardcover – 160 pages.
240 Norwegian Landscapes With a Volvo Somewhere in the Image, written by Tor Kjolberg
All images © Helge Skodvin