Tea & Water Pictures

Jørn Tomter
The Norwegian Way

In Norway, during the weeks before you finish your last year at school, most youth indulge in a four weeks celebration called Russ – a very unique tradition that started more than a hundred years ago. If you visit in May, it is impossible not to notice the teenagers in red, blue, green or black in their vans and buses. For many, it is a coming of age ritual and for the general public; it can be a noisy few weeks. There are many big and small groups, most with their own pimped up party vehicle, wearing special coloured outfits that signify educational direction. Some do stuff they regret, some have the best time of their life, and some earn objects to put in their Russ hats through completing challenges. These could be drinking a case of beer at a certain pace, kissing a police officer or spending the night in a roundabout. Needless to say, this doesn’t make much sense to outsiders. Perhaps though, the weirdest thing about the celebration is that this all take place in the weeks before their final exams, so the most important part of their education is often jeopardized by excessive drinking.

I am from Norway myself but have lived abroad for nearly twenty years. One spring, when I was back home in Norway for a job, I saw hundreds of Russ in red outfits having an impromptu party on a green grassy hill, while the sun was setting behind the sea next to them. In May, the colours in nature are amazing. I thought what I saw was extremely interesting on a visual level, so I decided, right in that moment, that I wanted to document the celebration and frame it in the Norwegian landscape. The following year I started photographing Russ and continued over five years, resulting in the book: The Norwegian Way, published by Generation Yacht.

Jørn Tomter
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