Photographer Benjamin Vnuk and model Adela Stenberg first met in Paris two years ago, a chance encounter in Canal Saint-Martin between two Swedish expats orbiting the fashion world. Yet within the year, the couple had moved into a shared flat in the 10th, drawn together both by chemistry and the inextricable ties they shared to their homeland.
“I remember my childhood as a bit dull and limiting when growing up in such a small town,” Stenberg recalls. “I have had some time to break up from my past, only to have returned later on in life, looking back at it with a shimmer around it. Sometimes it is nice to lose yourself in regression and nostalgia in order to appreciate what you have accomplished.” Thus, last year, the couple left Paris for the north of Sweden, passing five months between Stenberg’s hometown of Rättvik and a village even further afield called Furudal, meaning ‘the valley of the pine trees’.
Armed with a small arsenal of old Céline frocks and Hermès tops—purchased at a vintage shop in the 11th that was having, for only that day, a 70 percent sale—Vnuk and Stenberg set out to capture the supreme beauty of Sweden that they’d seen in old family photographs. What follows is a brief record of that time (a full book from Vnuk is forthcoming), the words from Stenberg and the images from Vnuk steeped in a nostalgia that celebrates Sweden and the fleeting glories of countryside summers.
“My hope is that my fellow Swedes recognizes this peculiar feeling of home and nostalgia when looking at the pictures,” Vnuk says.
What Happened Between March & July
It all began in New York where we both had work for some time. A few weeks prior to that we exchanged ideas for a photographic project we had thought about shooting. The name ”What Happened Between March & July” frames the time in which our story occurs. Yet we were completely clueless about what story we were going to tell. All we had planned for was to shoot something at this documentary photographer’s picturesque apartment overlooking the Williamsburg Bridge.
The both of us felt a bit on and off upon returning to our home base in Paris. Were we going to continue with this world traveler approach and see how things would turn out? What story was there for us to grasp onto over in, let’s say, Tokyo? Just considering the logistical obstacles made us nauseous. The solution was brought to us with a question I asked Benjamin one day in May: ”Why don’t we just shoot it in my hometown up north in Sweden?”
We neither wanted to focus too much on the fashion as we’re used too, nor solely shoot still life. Anyway, an interesting set of clothes was going to be necessary yet none of us knew where to get it. Fortunate enough we happened to walk into a high-end vintage store close to Square Maurice-Gardette in the 11th only to discover that half of the boutique was at 70 percent off exclusively on that very day. I felt like a true Marie Antoinette à la Sofia Coppola trying on old Céline pieces and off-brand leather trousers just knowing we had to get it all unless we were serious about the book project.
Halfway through the month of June, we left for Sweden and the whole journey was this wondrous experience of walking 20 kilometers to shoot an ancient mountain farm, waking up at 5:00 a.m. to get the morning golden light and staying inside on a rainy day playing cards with my grandpa. We worked non-stop from dawn to dusk for a week or two, completely relying on the natural light. No equipment other than the camera, the styling and some help from my family. It was true intimacy between me and Benjamin, something I feel comes out in the pictures.
Paris was burning and abandoned when we came back. Our usual hideouts in Le Marais had been conquered by tourists and all our friends had gone south for the summer. We decided to buy some more clothes and go back to Sweden for a second run, this time more prepared and experienced than ever. We rented a lonesome cabin we had carefully chosen depending on how picture-worthy it looked in the images.
During this process, from developing an idea all the way to laying our hands on a final handprint, our main ambition was simply to create beautiful pictures. Our narrative came naturally after being so close to each other for a long period of time. When I look at March & July, I feel like I am being told a story about Sweden and two significant others. It’s simple and unforced and exactly how we imagined it to be. — Adela Stenberg
Originally Appeared on Vogue