Exploring the Mineral’s Long Cultural Relationship with Photography

Salt takes centre stage (stand aside, pepper) in Beneath the Salt, an intriguing new photobook from photographers Marianne Bjørnmyr and Dan Mariner. The book is a back-to-basics photography homage to the role salt has played both in the cultural heritage of Træna, a North Norwegian island on which the pair attended an artist’s residency in Summer 2016, and also in the history of photographic development, from its conception right up to the current day.

Alba Gertz
Archive - Dalane Folkemuseum
Archive - The National Archives of Norway 3

Featuring work by 22 contributors from across the world, alongside material from official Norwegian Archives, the book is a beautiful invitation to contemplate this humble condiment.

Whilst the intersection of photography and island identities might seem narrow, Beneath the Salt casts its net wide, including a diverse collection of the rock’s functions, ranging from tabletop shakers to intricate natural mineral formations. Each image is captioned by way of a removable index card at the back of the book, allowing the viewer more free-associative rein whilst they’re browsing.

Archive - The National Archives of Norway 2
Archive - The National Archives of Norway 4

We chatted with Marianne and Dan about the rich collaborative flavour of this salty project.

THE PLUS: The collaboration was inspired by your time on Træna island – was it this shared experience that brought you together as collaborators?
Marianne Bjørnmyr + Dan Mariner:
Well, technically our collaboration started a while ago, as we are actually boyfriend and girlfriend. We met whilst living in London, and have been together for four years now. We moved to Northern Norway last year.

Almudena Romero 2

TP: So what brought you two together, artistically?
MB + DM:
We share similar interests and values in the photographic process, even though our approaches to the medium are quite different. Our approaches seem to work very well when working together, because the combination manages to cover all aspects of the visual project.

Almudena Romero

TP: What made the photos you selected from the open call and the archives stand out?
MB + DM:
We had quite a clear idea of how we wanted to book to look, so when we where trawling though the submitted imagery many of the images just jumped out as us, whether it was for the concept or their look. We also worked with local archives, so it was important that the material could work together in a way.

Dani Waagen Braatveit 2

TP: How did you want this to shape the book?
MB + DM:
We didn’t want it to be an overly historical approach, due to the fact that salt is still used in modern photographic processes and in daily life. Through a careful collection of images from a variety of dates, geographical areas, and contributors, the book challenges viewers in their knowledge about the photographs’ origin.

Lidia Bianchi 2

TP: Finally, any other everyday and overlooked flavourings that you think could make for an interesting photo-historical study?
MB + DM:
Good question – salt was the obvious choice for us, due to the its use as a preservation tool in both food and photography. However, I’m sure sugar would throw up some very interesting results.

Lidia Bianchi
Tor Skogstad 2
Tor Skogstad
Sam Nightingale
Sam Kelly
Rachelle Bussières
Melanie King
Lidia Bianchi 3
Geiste Kincinaityte
Fabrizio Musu
Beneath the salt - Cover

Beneath the Salt was published by YONA editions, and is available for purchase through Marianne’s website.