I found these advertising posters at bus stops in Trondheim, Norway. The reflective surfaces protecting them provided the opportunity to quite literally -- and more or less subtly -- fit myself into the picture.
Advertising posters are invitations. Invitations to spend money, of course, in most cases. But on one level they are also invitations to identify with the message they convey about the world and our place in it.
Spring and summer came and went, the way spring and summer always come and go. Always the same, and different every time. Skateboards and motorbikes are rare sights in November. But spring is only a few months away.
The first modern Norwegian shopping centre -- or shopping mall -- opened its doors in 1953 outside Oslo, but the real building boom in this sector started in the 1980s. Trondheim entered the new era with the opening of its first suburban shopping mall in 1987, at Tiller, 8 kilometres south of the city centre.
In most cities in this country you are now likely to find a shopping mall round every corner, and another few in the suburban "wastelands" on the outskirts. As elsewhere on the globe, these new (sub)urban landscapes under glass canopies offer a mixture of dreams and utility, and are of course irresistible: They have brought us a promised land of eternal summer and Italian gelato all year round in well-lit and sheltered surroundings.
Sheltered, that is, in more than one sense. The possibilities for effortless consumption and a couple of hours out of the house but protected from the harsh realities of the outside world are alluring, and equally accessible to wheelchair users and pram pushers and everybody else, provided there is money in our accounts or our pockets. What is more, there are no beggars to make us feel uncomfortable: the uniformed staff of the private security firms see to that. There are no buskers to make us wonder how much we owe them for the brief moments of happiness they provide us with, no smokers to provoke our asthma, and no storms or icy pavements to remind us of global warming or the fact that we live close to the North Pole -- or indeed that we are one-off physical beings on borrowed time. We can concentrate on our shopping or our espresso-based beverage, surrounded by others in the same position: united by our ability to spend.
The first mall in Trondheim has of course been followed by several others since the first customers were welcomed inside a couple of decades ago, each new one more elegant than the previous. The first, suburban mall remains the largest, however. It was expanded considerably at the turn of the millennium, and next year, another expansion is scheduled to double its current size.
In the foreseeable future, it seems that consumption will continue to rule supreme, recession or not. Shopping in surroundings protected from the elements and from unwanted reminders of social problems and their representatives is continuously gaining ground. In ever-expanding marble-paved streets with no names...
The St Olav festival is an annual cultural and religious event based on the history of Trondheim's Nidaros Cathedral as a destination for pilgrims (a tradition dating back to the Middle Ages). These images are from the festival's medieval market.
Norway's financial fortunes took a drastic turn for the better after extraction of petroleum started off our shores in 1971. The oil and gas industry has since become our "largest source of greenhouse gas emissions" (Norwegian Pollution Control Authority: State of the Environment Norway, www.environment.no 11th July 2008), and these emissions have been allowed to rise steadily even over the past ten years despite mounting concerns over global warming and our national eagerness to appear to be at the helm of all good causes. The current political bone of contention is whether exploratory drilling for oil should commence in the near-ish future outside the Lofoten archipelago; Lofoten being perhaps the greatest icon in the international marketing of Norway as a country of clean and unspoiled natural beauty. The insatiable need for energy, the jobs generated by the oil industry and all the money involved may in the end ensure that the environment is dealt yet another blow.