Østerdalen, Norway 2003–2006

I was given this assignment together with four other Norwegian photographers, and the idea was to depict the day-to-day life of the recruits and special forces that operate there. The resulting photo series would be displayed in the camp’s communal areas, representing our individual interpretations and perceptions of military life.

To an outsider, the activities going on within the camp appeared relatively absurd, a closed and strange world characterised by strict rules and regulations.

In the military system, the individual is reduced to a mere brick, a part of a greater whole. The harsh demands for physical and mental strength and stamina will exclude and destroy those who do not manage to fit into the system. This carefully constructed hierarchy of domination and obedience is a way of creating order, but it also taps into and echoes some primeval forces that still reside in us. The unpolished nature of the interaction between the recruits stood in stark contrast to the highly technological and sophisticated nature of the training methods, which included the simulation of actual war scenarios.

With vast areas functioning as battlegrounds and digitalised laser guns transmitting signals from the imaginary wounded and dead to a command centre, these scenes bore a striking similarity to the world of commercial computer games. This suggested to me that there must be a very fine line between the seriousness of warfare and the fictional games played through their training.

As a result, I decided to dedicate my entire project to documenting and also setting up situations that had an intrinsic ambiguity, encompassing serious, realistic and humorous aspects alike. 

Click here to read "Images becoming Flesh" by Curator and writer Michael Petry