John Erik Riley, Det jeg var, Flamme Forlag (2020)
BOOK | In 2020, just before the pandemic, John Erik Riley looked back on 25 years of history, culture and his own, fragmented life, and constructed a patchwork of color photography and literature unlike any other. The volume, Det jeg var, is dedicated as much to contemporary crises as it is to hope, insight and reconciliation with the here and now. We meet a cast of characters from various locales who speak in their own specific voices about modern trauma and potential ways out. They come from Srebrenica in Bosnia and Southern Los Angeles, from Vardø in Norway and northern Mexico, and their stories are echoed in images which are realistic and gritty but also unworldly. Here, photography is not merely a documentation of a moment or a mirror to the world but, rather, a rethinking of what narrative can mean or be – both in photography and written language. This two-fold viewpoint comes, in part, from his work as an author of fiction and poetry, but also from an urge to challenge the boundaries between text and image, and the real and the imagined. His work reflects an age in which real events sometimes seem implausible, and can make us feel as though we are wandering in a dreamscape.
BIO | John Erik Riley is an acclaimed author of fiction, a critic of both literature and photography and the managing editor at Cappelen Damm, Norway’s largest publishing house. Although his background is primarily within the literary field, his work has, since 2010, increasingly employed photography. His multidisciplinary approach is evident in the novel Heimdal, California, the non-fiction work Øynene i ørkenen and eventually culminated in Det jeg var from 2020. Each volume is maximalist in scope and vision, employing a variety of techniques, among them autobiographical sketches, poetry, fiction, interviews, snapshots, big camera work, experimental photography, and so forth. A major inspiration for his work is the experience of living as a so-called «everywhere», with roots in various cultures, with a strong connection to both Norway and the United States. His story is one with many facets, resulting in a kaleidoscopic, intriguing and sometimes dizzying array of ideas and methods.