Religious revivals throughout Norway in the 1800s led to robust growth in the particularly Norwegian phenomenon of prayer houses (bedehus). From Lindesnes in the far south to Vardø in the far north, prayer houses were built through volunteer effort in thousands of communities. For many years these were important gathering places – for prayer meetings, holiday celebrations, social activities and much more. Today a great many of them have been sold, turned into local museums, renovated as private dwellings and even as skate parks.
In the summer of 2017, the photographer Erlend Berge started living in a camper van and travelled around Norway to photograph prayer houses in every county in the country. No one has ever before documented these buildings to such an extent. In the exhibition Behold, I am coming soon!, the uniquely Norwegian prayer-house aesthetic is depicted through a beautiful colour palette and sure sense of style. The story is told mainly through photos of rooms, but Berge’s visits to the prayer houses would never have been possible were it not for the people who use them. In collaboration with Perspektivet Museum, the exhibition now for the first time includes portraits of some of those who opened the prayer-house doors.
The photographer Erlend Berge went to Sunday School at Heia Prayer House in Ryfylke. He also attended bazars there as a youth. He trained as a journalist and has worked in recent years as a photojournalist for the newspaper Vårt Land. The exhibition Behold, I am coming soon! is an elaboration on Berge’s photo book with the same title, and also the project Bedehusland (www.bedehusland.no). The project has received support from the Fritt Ord Foundation, Arts Council Norway, Karina Jensen’s Endowment and Vårt Land.
The exhibition Behold, I am coming soon! marks the final year of Perspektivet Museum’s long-term exhibition Homo Religiosus.
The exhibition opens on Sunday, 1 December 2019, and the photographer will be present.