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Tonje Bøe Birkeland (born 1985 in Bergen, Norway) received her Master’s degree in Fine Art at Bergen Academy of Art and Design in 2012. She was awarded with the Hasselblad Foundation’s Victor Fellowship 2012 for her contribution Tuva Tengel (1901-1985) Letters from Mongolia exhibited as part of New Nordic Photography at Hasselblad Center, Gothenburg. Hasselblad Foundation’s Victor Fellowship sponsored her stay at International Studio & Curatorial Program (ISCP) in Brooklyn, New York. Recent shows include inner & Outer Landscapes by Fotografisk Center, Copenhagen, Darkness & Light at Scandinavia House, New York, Types and Archetypes at Galleri F15, Moss, Norway, Life is the Only Way at Bontelabo, Bergen, Norway and Character # IV Anna Aurora Astrup at fotogalleriet [format], Malmö, Sweden. The National Public Art Council Sweden, Nya Karolinska, Hasselblad Foundation and Preus Museum have Birkeland’s works in their collections.


Tonje Bøe Birkeland (født 1985 i Bergen) mottok sin mastergrad i kunst på Bergen Kunstakademi i 2012. Hun ble tildelt Hasselbladfondets Victor Fellowship 2012 for sitt bidrag Tuva Tengel (1901-1985). Serien Brev fra Mongolia utstilles som en del av New Nordic Photography i Hasselblad Center, Göteborg. Hasselbladfondets Victor Fellowship sponset hennes opphold ved International Studio & Curatorial Program (ISCP) i Brooklyn, New York. Nylige utstillinger inkluderer Inner and Outer Landscapes, Fotografisk senter i København; Darkness & Light , Scandinavia House, New York; Types and Archetypes, Galleri F15, Moss, Norge; Life is the only way, Bontelabo, Bergen, Norge og Character # IV Anna Aurora Astrup, fotogalleriet [format], Malmö, Sverige. Hun er representert i samlingene Statens kunstråd, Sverige, Nya Karolinska, Hasselblad Foundation og Preus Museum.



THE OBJECTIVE OF THE CHARACTERS is to encapsulate an entire artistic practice. Since 2008 I have, through The Characters, given women a position within landscape while exploring the authenticity of history. On expeditions, female explorers are staged in Unknown Territory. Materials have been gathered from before, during and after their journeys, yielding stories and installations, with photography in large formats portraying Characters # I – V.


The romantic motives of the male wanderer have been well-documented and well-portrayed in art history. In my project, the characters are female. The heroine moves in pristine territory: in front of her looms grand exploration; beneath her, history is formed. However, despite grand vistas and sublime experiences, expeditions come at a price, both in the past and today.


The Characters demand physical presence as well as sensitivity for storytelling. Each project leads closer to the objective of a gallery of personas of female heroines from the past, who, through narrative, fantasy and photography, can fill a void in our history and reveal contemporary society’s challenges: globalized colonization on the one hand and the loss of the great adventure on the other.


The first four Characters are now gathered in one artist book, of 300 copies, each numbered by hand: The Characters, Tonje Bøe Birkeland, 2016: Character #I ALINE VICTORIA BIRKELAND (1870-1952), geologist and glaciologist, travels in the high Arctic and on Spitsbergen. Character #II TUVA TENGEL (1901-1985), desert traveller, author and photographer, travels in the Gobi Desert, Mongolia. Character #III LUELLE MAGDALON LUMIÈRE (1873-1973), stereophotographer and poet, is an enterprising and strong woman. She is a traveller among islands, societies and continents. Character #IV ANNA AURORA ASTRUP (1871-1968) sails along the East Coast of Greenland in 1900. Astrup charts sea depth, mountain peaks and coastline.


Far more physically challenging to the artist than any of her previous projects; Character #V is created on a series of expeditions to Bhutan: Character #V BERTHA BOLETTE BOYD (1900-1985), mountaineer and author, travels to Bhutan in April 1931. Bhutan is landlocked, impenetrable and isolated. Monasteries cling to buttresses. At an elevation of 7578 metres, Bhutan’s Gangkar Punsum is the highest unclimbed mountain on Earth.

Character II, Plate 06, Gobi 1931

Character II, Plate 19, Ger 1931

Character III, plate 01 First Street Town of Williamsbur

Character IV, plate 02 Astrup's Horn

Character IV, plate 01 Astrup's Horn

Character IV, plate 07 Seven Lakes

Character V, plate 20 Saddle above Labatama 4550 m.a

Character V, plate 07, Pangabtsa 4250 m.a.s.l

Character V, plate 01, Tiger nest 3120 m.a.s.l

Character V, plate 03 Tango Monastery 3200 m.a.s.l

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