Fascination Evolved Into Obsession

For almost 30 years, photographer Jens Hauge has photographed desolated play forts and tree huts made by children — a project that started as a fascination, and ended up as an obsession. For Jens, photographing the structures is like portraying its creators, and the connection to childhood dreams and memories are a driving force.

Where does your interest in tree huts come from, and why do you photograph them?

For me, as for so many others, it started in childhood — like a bubbly, creative urge to create something on my own. We stole nails and materials from both my father and neighbor. Big ambitions, many unfinished huts.

The reason why I started photographing tree huts as an adult, was a fascination for the sculptural aspect. One of my greatest sources of inspiration is land art, and the kinship there is obvious.

Eventually, other aspects of the constructions became interesting as well. And in many ways, it was like portraying childhood, without any children being present in the photos. Now it has evolved from fascination to obsession.

In other words, this project didn’t start as an idea. It began as a gut feeling or intuition — and it evolved from there. I photographed the first cabin in 1988, and it is not over yet.

 

Do the huts change and develop trough time?

No, I don’t think they change. Childrens’ emancipation is a basic driving force. I believe their need to create a view point and a hiding place of their own is timeless.

What's the reception been like?

During the opening of the exhibition, «Viewpoint and Hiding Place» at Kunstnerforbundet in Oslo in 2003, it became evident to me that these images served as a «memory bridge» to the past. People of all ages stood in groups and told very emotional stories about their cabin experiences from childhood. It was a moving experience.

What does your dream hut look like?

For me it’s important that the cabins were made by children. The dream is a primary ingredient in the process. I will not place constraints on other peoples dreams. This project has been an impactful and moving experience, and the comprehensiveness of the work that I've done feels like a compensation for all those unfinished cabins of my own — of what once was my dream.