Norway revisited after 51 years: A perspective of Vik
Regular Macfilos readers will remember a recent story which featured a black and white photograph, taken by me in 1967, of the main street in a Norwegian town. After all those years I couldn’t remember the name of the place. But by some rapid detective work, readers managed to track down the town as Vik and found a Google street view shot of the very street.
Now a Norwegian reader, Tor Berg, completed has the story. He wrote to Macfilos to explain that he is very familiar with Vik because he has a cabin in the mountains behind the town. Tor has provided a contemporary shot of the street, taken from the same point as my 1967 photo, as well as an image looking down from the other direction and a vista of the town from a viewpoint called Kyrelvstupet in the mountains behind Vik.
Tor explained that the hotel, which featured prominently in the 1967 shot, was built in 1847 and was called the Hopstock Hotell. It was replaced in 1973 by a new establishment which burnt down in 2010. The hotel was subsequently rebuilt on a nearby site, but I suspect that dancing on the tables on evenings when the bar is candlelit has now been banned.
When I sat down to write this story, I searched for the original scan of the 1967 picture and, to my surprise, I found a colour scan sitting in my photo library. I have not had time to ferret out the original slide, so I am guessing from its colour that it is Ektachrome — a film which I often used at that time.
Comparing Tor’s 2018 digital colour (shot taken with his Fujifilm X-T2 and his XF16-55mm F2.8 R LM WR lens) and my fifty-year-old photo (taken with my Leica 3A fitted with a 50mm F2.8 Elmar on Ektachrome film), I concluded that they are similar in many ways. The Vik street is now surfaced with tarmac, and there is more traffic as pedestrians don’t saunter down the middle of the road in the day. But the similarities are more marked than the differences. Apart from the ill-fated hotel, the frontages of the buildings are mostly unchanged. In 1967 there was a Mercedes car — in the far distance — and a British Hillman Minx. Now there’s still a Mercedes, although it’s a van, and there’s also a Tesla electric car. No Minx!
If you had told me as I stood in that street in 1967 that Norway in 2018 would be very wealthy from oil, and that the citizens of Vik would be driving around in electric cars, I would have suggested that maybe you had spent too much time in the bar of the Hopstock Hotell.
Also, it’s not just the good burghers of Vik now driving electric cars. Norway is a significant market for Tesla and other electric car makers because the government gives generous incentives to encourage drivers to go electric. To me, this is both very principled but also somewhat ironic seeing as Norway’s wealth comes from oil.
I would have been equally disbelieving if you had told me back in 1967 about the ease of digital photography and the availability of superb, affordable and easy-to-use cameras and zoom lenses; and that the same scene would be captured 50 years later by one such a device in sharp colour, whilst the Ektachrome slide taken back in 1967 would have deteriorated. Of course, the jury is out on how Tor’s digital image will be in 2068 after 50 years of digital storage, but sadly I won’t be around to find out.
I would perhaps have been even more disbelieving if I had been told in 1967 that the makers of my Ektachrome film, Kodak, one of the USA’s biggest and most iconic companies at that time, would have all but disappeared by 2018.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Many thanks to Tor Berg.
You can find more from John Shingleton at The Rolling Road and on Instagram at therollingroad.