Furthering her exploration into the relationship between mythology, photography and language, Swedish photographer Maja Daniels returns to a small village in Sweden to continue the project that she couldn’t let go.
In early 2019, Maja Daniels released Elf Dalia, a book that captured the attention and imagination of everyone that laid eyes on it. It was a story of heritage, mystery, folklore, and myth. In 1668, in the village of Älvdalen - a small parish shrouded by dense green forest in the centre of the country - a 12-year-old girl named Gertud was accused of walking on water. Hysteria ensued and Gertud, along with 19 other women and one man, was executed for practicing witchcraft. This little known chain of events reverberated throughout the world and is even credited with leading to the infamous Salem witch trials almost 30 years later.
The legend has persevered, passing through the ages and into the personal histories of the townspeople. It’s a story that Maja learnt through her grandparents, both locals of Älvdalen who speak the ancient dialect of Elfdalian - an old Norse language all but lost now - that only adds to the village’s mysticism.
Bewitched, Maja worked for three years on a series that uncovers the truths, fictions and folklore of Älvdalen. She interspersed her own documentation with the work of historian and photographer Tenn Lars Persson, who lived in the area in the early 1900s.
But Maja wasn’t finished.
The strange wonder of Älvdalen, its mysteries and its ancient Elfdalian language had taken hold of her. Captivating and unsettling, there was something that she could not shake. And so she returned.
This new body of work dives deeper into the mysteries Älvdalen, further exploring the idea of myth, and the notion of photography as a visual dialect used to create our own folklore. Here too sound is important; the fable of language used to translate the then to the now, from myth to some form of spoken reality. “Oral traditions exist around the myth, but myths exist within the boundaries of the unspoken,” Maja says. “It is open to interpretation but it refuses to be fully locked down or understood. It is in some ways resisting. The core of what is expressed in an image lies somewhere in the unseen, in the shadows or between the images, in their silent associations.”