Book: Nordic

From underground ovens in Iceland to whale hunting on the Faroe Islands, Swedish chef Magnus Nilsson publishes his photography of Nordic food cultures

A new book collects the photography of the Swedish chef Magnus Nilsson. Entitled Nordic: A Photographic Essay of Landscapes, Food and People, it offers an intimate view of the geography, culture and cuisine of Northern Europe.

Nilsson, who is currently head chef at Sweden's acclaimed Fäviken Magasinet restaurant, explains his photographic technique in Nordic's foreword. “Most of my photos are snapshots; spontaneous moments that just happened to unfold around me at a time when I was present enough to point my camera towards them and push the release."

In the current milieu of Instragram food shots and Snapchat stories, Nilsson – who has spent more than 25 years travelling to collect recipes – offers a rare professional viewpoint. His photographs span the entirety of Northern Europe, including Denmark, the Faroe Islands, Finland, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden.

Nordic captures the people Nilsson met and the places he visited along the way, from shots of the underground ovens used to steam Icelandic rye bread to bakers preparing Karelian pasties in Finland. He writes passionately about customs like fäbodvall, the seasonal movement of people and their livestock between summer and winter pastures, and grindadrap, the ancient practice of whale hunting which is still integral to Faroese culture. He describes traditional food preparations methods, including hangikjöt (hanging meat) and súrmatur (pickling in the acidic whey from cultured milk).

Scenes of stark northern landscapes are syncopated with intimate kitchen portraits and descriptive essays about the local culture and traditions. Nilsson’s essays are warm, personal, and reverent of the cultures he observes. The book concludes aptly with a series of self-portraits explaining “how to skoal with style”, which instructs readers on how to propose a toast with the Scandinavian drink aquavit.