The Stones of Örelid

April 16, 2015 Sweden

The Stones of Örelid mark an ancient viking tomb, somewhere in the South of Sweden.

I have never seen them in real life, but lately I keep on returning to this picture of them, taken in 1930 by a photographer called Mårten Sjöbeck. It is a remarkable shot of the stones, which the Swedish Heritage Board soberly describes as: An Iron Age burial ground with standing stones in a field of rye. In the background an oak tree.“

No sense of endings

But as the saying goes: the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. In this case, the elements of the photo are like puzzle pieces scattered before us: The rye tall and full of grains, the stones solid and stoic, the tree in the center of the frame standing deliciously askew. Assemble the pieces, and you get the full picture.

This photo may show a burial site, but there’s life implied: You can feel the rye swaying in an imagined summer breeze. You can picture the tree leaves move, hear the crickets chirp in the tall grass. Then there’s that strange luminosity in the greys, making the picture feel more vivid than you everyday black and white shot. Even the sunlit background appears so bright that it resembles and enormous wave, ready to wash over the image any second.

There’s nothing morbid about this, no sense of endings, just possibility.

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