Eivind Natvig captures the controversy over drilling in Norway’s Lofoten Islands for the Financial Times magazine

The Norwegian photographer documented a subject matter both political and personal for the FT, exploring his country’s conflicted sense of national identity

About $60bn worth of oil is thought to lie under Norway’s beautiful Lofoten Islands — alongside a bountiful population of Arctic cod and the world’s largest coldwater coral reef. This trove of untapped wealth poses an existential dilemma for a country that made its fortune through oil but has come to pride itself on climate action. To drill or not to drill?


“‘To say it simply,’ says [lifelong fisherman] Karlsen, ‘it is totally idiotic and completely senseless to start up with oil here in Lofoten.’ He cites a priest and poet from the 17th century, Petter Dass: ‘Without the Arctic cod we will suffer here — it is like gold to us.’

The fight over Lofoten, however, is not just a local matter. It is nothing less than a battle for the soul of Norway and what kind of country it wants to be. For decades, the nation’s economy and jobs market have been boosted by oil and gas. It has used the revenues from petroleum to create the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, which owns on average 1.3 per cent of every single listed company on earth.”


Natvig has been exploring and subverting the concept of Norwegian identity in his photographs for years, with projects including You Are Here Now and and Come, for all is now ready. Here he considers another dimension to his nation’s complex, at times contradictory identity with his images of the Lofoten Islands, where he lives in the small fishing village of Skrøva—his ‘adopted home’—making the subject one particularly close to his heart.


The full report entitled ‘Oil and the battle for Norway’s soul’ with images by Eivind Natvig and text by Richard Milne is available on the Financial Times website.

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