Nowhere like home

Photography by Jonas Ersland
Words by Andris Søndrol Visdal

How do we experience the places that surround us? That’s the question Jonas Ersland, a 24 year old graphic designer and photographer living in Eindhoven, Netherlands, asked himself upon returning to his home country after his first year living abroad. Walking through the town of Mandal, a town in the south of Norway, he wondered how differently his new friends from around the world would experience this place, a place Jonas knew inside out, but at the same time might seem exotic and new to others.

After completing his bachelor’s degree in Graphic Design from Westerdals School of Communication (WSoC) in Oslo, Jonas packed his bags and left home to study in the Netherlands. This was his first time both living and spending much time abroad. He is part of the inaugural class of a course called Food Non Food at Design Academy Eindhoven. 

"Living abroad was a kind of punch in the face. I met all these new people from around the world with entirely different backgrounds than me, with completely different influences and experiences," Jonas explains.

Returning back home in the summer of 2014, after completing his first year in Eindhoven, he spent a few days at the family cabin in Mandal. He wandered the area, in the footsteps of his childhood, and realized that all the new people he had met in the last year would probably have a completely different experience than the one he was having.

"This place, which feels like the mundane, same old to me, might feel exotic, new and exciting to them. That sparked the idea of the ‘Nowhere like home’ project." 

Jonas started looking at what he describes as the personality of the places he visited. Through photography he tries to convey the essence of the city or area he wanders.

"A city like Amsterdam has a bunch of different personalities. It’s a city of tourists and landmarks. But underneath all of that there is the Amsterdam of the people who live there. The bus stops and back alleys. I want to explore the personality of a place that resembles that of an old friend, someone you know so well that you don’t need to talk to them to know what they’re feeling, where non-verbal communication is just as important as what’s spoken out loud. The normal, everyday Amsterdam."

He always makes sure to make time for wandering around with his camera whenever he spends time somewhere new. His eyes constantly search for details that speak of the history of a place, about its personality and about the people who live there.

"I always look for that one little detail that wasn’t planned," he explains.

The results of his explorations, a series of around half a dozen photographs from each place he visits, Jonas publishes online ( on the first Sunday of every month. That way he keeps the pressure to continue expanding the project. He dreams of someday taking the project to Northern Norway, Svalbard and even Alaska.

"Those are all very cold places," he laughs. "I think it’s the nostalgia and honesty that attracts me."

Everyday life is a common thread through many of Jonas’s projects. To menn på Tøyenbadet, an animated short film based on a secret sound recording in the locker room of a public bath, is a result of Jonas’s fascination with the casual conversations you overhear in public.

"It all springs from the same interest in what is normal and mundane, Jonas says. –I like looking at what you might not pay attention to at first glance and seeing what happens when you shine a light on it."

This article was first published in Volume Four (2015).