AGNES THOR'S NEW BOOK, AS THE RIVER RUNS, IS A PERSONAL STORY. SHOT IN THE AREA AROUND THE PHOTOGRAPHER'S CHILDHOOD HOME, IT DEPICTS THE SWEDISH LANDSCAPE IN ALL ITS SEASONS. ON A DEEPER LEVEL, THOUGH, IT EXPLORES THE POWER OF MEMORIES CONNECTED TO A PLACE. AS AGNES RETURNED OVER THE YEARS, SHE RETRACED THE STEPS OF HER CHILDHOOD AND, ALONG WITH THE PASSING OF THE SEASONS, DOCUMENTED THE PASSAGE OF TIME.
HERE WE ASKED HER TO SHARE WITH US SOME STORIES BEHIND THE PHOTOGRAPHS SHE TOOK OF THIS PLACE, WHICH WAS ONCE HER ENTIRE WORLD.
Editing and creating this book was a massive project. I made contact sheets that spanned over eight years of work and scanned and printed hundreds low-res images. At first, the editing process was intuitive, and because of that, the above image almost didn’t make it. I shot this towards the end of my eight-year journey, and at the time, not enough of it had passed for me to be able to separate my emotions from the motif. But something made me keep it, and now, it’s one of my favorite pieces of work.
If there’s any memory that can make my eyes slightly tear, is that of an open window in the summer. Always letting light and air in, open from morning until the buzz of the first mosquito in the evening. On summer days, we’d climb in and out of the window—why use the door ? On summer eves, there was the smell of the honeysuckle wafting from the flowerbed next to the window. The house was old, inside and out, and the sense of tradition and of valuing the past stays with me.
On the border of my world, were the South Woods. When old enough, I was free to roam wherever I wished—yet I never set foot in these woods by myself, and rarely in company either. The distant sound of the highway came through the woods, and there were abandoned buildings and cottages sprawled for what seemed like forever. A sense of fear stays with me to this day, and yet it’s so beautiful in the November mist.
Right behind my house, there’s a cut through the tall grass, the result of years and years of horses’ hoofs beating the ground into submission, as the riding school in the area held outdoor lessons there in the early summer. To this day I still get a tingling feeling, thinking about the happiness of riding, running free through the meadow.
A typical winter in Sweden is gray and muddy, or when it’s at its best, shiny, blue and crisp. This hill behind our house: in the summers back then a flower-filled pasture, in the winters a very tame ski slope. Now it’s the home of thousands of bees, and the place where my dad’s passion for beginning anew by burning the old has its place.
I shot this image as part of a project that will probably never be finished – a photographer friend and I decided to photograph gardens, and I chose the place where I grew up, and my favorite time of day—just when the sun rose. During the summer in Sweden, the sun rises at 4 or 5 a.m., and I would set my alarm, walk around the quiet, dewy garden—photographing for an hour or so, and then crawl back into bed with wet, grassy feet, falling back asleep.
This is the only photograph I have of the house I grew up in. Over the course of my time as a photographer, I’ve never photographed the house in its entity. Its familiarity hinders any other interpretation. It’s rare to see it with this much snow, but that’s how I remember the winters of my childhood. The red house embedded in the soft, white mass, and days of skiing and sledding. There’s the cold floor in the morning, before my parents made it out of bed and made a fire. I had the responsibility of keeping the fire going when I was alone. It was another time, in many ways, and I’m grateful that I could call it home.
As a kid, I took swimming in the river for granted. There were different places for different purposes – the shallow part of the river outside our house; perfect for playing and a quick morning dip, the dam and its waterfalls, where we’d go on warm summer days and evenings—jumping and swimming. And then there was the pier at Snavlunda, pictured here, where the river bent; to this day, I stay within 30 yards of shore.