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Aptly titled True Norwegian Black Metal, the volume will be published by Vice Books and is touted as "a photographic narrative that explores black metal from a truly visceral perspective." Beste has been involved in the metal scene for years, and after shooting several Norwegian acts for promotional photos and magazine spreads he began assembling collections of images which, taken out of their musical context, proved quite remarkable. The more Beste worked within the genre the more able he was to extensively document it and, having "earned the respect and trust of this impenetrable, suspicious and often elitist community," the larger his collection grew. After eight years the photographer had become a de facto authority on an unassumingly large musical subculture, a genre that had spawned a micro-economy worth millions of dollars and secured for itself an edgy, if somewhat frightening, mainstream reputation.
Realizing the unique nature of the images, which captured striking faces and looming poses from imposing, often ghoulish figures, Beste packaged collections in limited editions - there is a 2005 series of 3000 released in Japan, which was issued in "a large dictionary sized cardboard box which unfolds into an upside down cross" - and set off an ouroboros that would see heavy-metal magazines doing stories on his collection of images that were originally shot for heavy-metal magazines.
After the better part of a decade Beste's coverage of the "unique subculture in the context of Norway's magical landscape, mythological background, and strong sense of culture" was extensive and the American documentary photographer's perspective of the obscure niche began to circulate in underground media. His photos were featured in Arktip No.0038 and memorialized on a limited edition shirt print (a heavy metal rite of passage one would assume). Earlier this month, MTV's Headbangers Ball Blog posted a podcast interview with Beste.
Beste's image for Arktip No.0038
To put his work in context, Vice paints the backdrop of Beste's images not as the Myspace-driven multimediaplex of 2008, but the emergence of metal in Norway a decade ago: "In the early-mid 1990's, members of this extremist underground committed murder, burned down medieval wooden churches, and desecrated graveyards. What started as juvenile frenzy came to symbolize the start of a war against Christianity, a return to the worship of the ancient Norse gods, and the complete rejection of mainstream society."
Though it certainly sounds evil, Scandinavian hard rock isn't as scary as Vice's True Norwegian Black Metal marketing makes it out to be - "a subculture and musical genre that is often violent, misunderstood and shrouded in secrecy." It is certainly fascinating to look at however, and the music's practitioners (and fans) look foreboding in Beste's snapshots. The photographer also produced a five-part documentary short film for VBS.TV earlier this year on Gaahl, one of the scene's iconic staples, and his band Gorgorot. The multimedia is entertaining, but Beste's still images, which will be presented in a series of gallery showings beginning in May, are truly captivating.
To celebrate the launch of the Vice collection of Beste's Norwegian metal portraits, the Steven Kasher Gallery on West 23rd Street in New York will be mounting a selection of images from the 216 page photobook, with the show's opening night reception scheduled for May 9th, from 6-8pm. The show promises to be a collection of "intense and remarkable photographs of unparalleled artistic integrity." There are plans for London, Stockholm, Oslo, Berlin, and Los Angeles showings of Beste's work from True Norwegian Black Metal to follow.
VIDEO: www.vbs.tv/true-norwegian-black-metal SEE ALSO: www.peterbeste.com
Eric J Herboth
Eric J. Herboth is the founder, publisher and Managing Editor of LAS magazine. He is a magazine editor, freelance writer, bike mechanic, commercial pilot, graphic designer, International Scout enthusiast and giver of the benefit of the doubt. He currently lives in rural central Germany with his two best friends, dog Awahni and cat Scout.
See other articles by Eric J Herboth.
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