As the autumn darkness is crawling in, I want to look back to brighter days and be thankful for all the colors in my life. I happen – and am happy – to live in maybe the brightest neighborhood of Oslo. There are neighborhoods with richer architecture and posher buildings, where streets are full of beautiful blond people. There are neighborhoods closer to the lakes, the nature and the forest with the festival of autumn colors happening right now. But I would claim that no neighborhood is so full of colorful houses and lively crowds as Gruneløkka, the hipster hood.
Let me prove my point with these photos taken in August, when the air was already chilly, but when the sun was still shining and sending our spirits high. May the light and colors brighten up your autumn mood!
With all the events of the past weeks I have neglected my photowalks in Oslo. But I still feel the need to share its beautiful corners and lovely streets. So today I want to present my favorite neighborhood – Gruneløkka. It became hipster recently after having undergone the gentrification. It used to be a cheap and shabby area with weird population, then it became popular among artists and students for its cheapness, and now – as it usually happens – it is a neighborhood with many restaurants, cafes, bars and small shops. Which are mostly quirky, vintage and small businesses, but the big chains have appeared here too in the past couple of years squeezing the small owners out of the area. Gruneløkka, or shortly Løkka, is full of life and attracts people from other parts of the city for eating out or hanging in its bars.
The backyards of Oslo are charming and mysterious. They are hidden behind wooden doors or iron gates. Some are simple, with geometric shapes of facades. Some are full of life, with fountains, gardens, romantic benches under the trees. When I walk through my favorite neighborhood of Gruneløkka and pass by the gates, I always slow down and peek into the backyard, wandering at its secret life, imagining how people use it. Do children play there? Do they make backyard parties there?
Once when I was on a photo walk, I’ve seen an open gate – and after a moment of hesitation I sneaked inside and stood there. Just a backyard, just a girl with a camera. But that joy of explorer was reaching to the stars, as I stood there, happy as a child. After that I wondered if I should sneak into more backyards, waiting by the gate until someone was passing through 🙂 That would guarantee me a status of a local weirdo, I guess. I decided to wait on that one, and just make photos through the gates and doors. That day became an adventure for my explorer spirit.
After I have caught an explorer excitement about the city where I live here, I was inspired to share the collections of things that catch my attention. Like my collection of backyards, or balconies, or details of Oslo. In my first years in this city I was sharing my collections of doors, old cars and lights of Oslo on Facebook. Then when Instagram came, and I have seen shots of the beautiful doors, I was again running around the city looking for the pretty doors and facades. My friend even mentioned that I should post more photos of myself than of doors (but I disagree :)).
I also want to introduce the idea of micro exploring. That concept came to my mind yesterday, but I would not be surprised if it already exists (as it often happens with some ideas occurring to me :)). A quick search of blogs here on WordPress led to the Ted talk by Alastair Humphreys who introduces the notion of micro adventure. A further research is to be done. But here I am not to claim the originality of the idea, but to speak my heart about it. I feel that this is what the world needs right now. Or maybe, this is what I need right now :)) A shift of focus. The discovery of beauty in my immediate surroundings.
Last week my interest for exploring my own city was rekindled. This week I have spent in excitement and inspiration, falling in love with the place that I thought can hold no more surprises for me. So if you feel a bit stuck in your relationship with a place you live in, grab your camera and go out for a walk. For me taking pictures is like a ritual of appreciation. When I notice something and stop to snap it, I feel so alive. It is like showing gratitude to life for all the beauty it sends our way. A happiness-boosting process it is.
Another inspiration came from searching through blogs here on WordPress. I found a post “Oslo is colorful” by Kjersti Lier and was instantly obsessed with her project and her images. She has made the series where she shows that Oslo truly is a colorful city. Go check her vibrant collection, it is so lovely. Can you believe that I used to see Oslo as Northern, bit boring and gray place? I cannot believe it myself! Because Oslo is really full of colors.
I happen to live in the country that has given to this world the great explorers like Roald Amundsen, Fridtjof Nansen, the Vikings (who sailed all the way to North America). These guys have set kind of high standard for what exploring means, and, honestly, sometimes that bothers me. Do you also have this idea of exploring the faraway shores, thick jungles and mountain tops that are untouched by the foot of a man? Then I check the Instagram feeds of travel bloggers with their perfect sets in places that I don’t know how to pronounce, the flowing dresses, hats and hipster backpacks all there. I look at them, I look at me – and in my eyes you can see a reflection of an abyss that seems impossible to jump over.
But where is this distance? It’s only in my head, and no one is really stopping me. And I don’t even need to buy tickets to the exotic destinations, pack my suitcase with mosquito sprays and first aid kits, and risk my life hanging from the cliff with my camera in order to call myself an explorer. My mind is like a kid, it needs a picture attached to the word. So these are the pictures I have attached to the word “explore”. But recently I came to realize that exploring is the spirit, not the destination, or a dangerous activity or a cool shot on Instagram. It is more like an attitude, a mind mode that you can tap into any time and any place.
Today I would like to start new series of posts about the city where I live. That was partly inspired by the rainy weather this week when I felt stuck at home and was browsing my older photos. I have discovered that when you cannot get out and shoot, you can be creative with all those pics. Creativity is motivated better by constrains than by freedom, according to science and Eric Barker, and I agree with that now.
My second inspiration came from talking to the fellow blogger Estrella of La Casabloga about living in the cities which other people find wonderful and how we get surprised by it. I have lived in Oslo for 10 years and lost that freshness that makes you open your eyes widely in awe. I spent my first years wandering around the city, taking pictures with my old camera. But now I got used to it, and then watching pics on Instagram (hashtag beautiful destinations) makes me dream away to places like Paris and London. And good old Oslo? Oslo is still here, but when did it stop to excite me? So with these new series I want to reinvent my attitude to Oslo, to explore it anew and share it on the blog.