Ever wake up and jump into a Minnesota lake?
In the coastal village of Torekov, Sweden, locals plunge into the sea, letting the cold water wash over them. But it's more than just a "morning dip" — it's a habitual experience all the way down to carefully selected bathrobes.
Swedish-American artist Peggy Anderson, who has been going to Torekov for years, became so curious about this ritual that one summer she started photographing people who jumped into the water. Now her 39 photos, 56 inches tall and 43 inches wide, are on display in the solo exhibition "The Morning Dip," at the American Swedish Institute.
In one photo, a woman named Malin sports a striking red robe. She wears sunglasses and poses, tilting her head slightly to the left while standing on a rocky shore with an endless blue ocean behind her. In another picture, biracial couple Klas and Martha wear white robes and stand on the pier, holding their baby, Kennedy.
In the middle of the gallery, a couple of beach chairs and gray cushions atop fake grass offer people a place to lounge. A collection of bathrobes hangs in a corner, beckoning people to put them on.
Anderson, who spent her childhood in Sweden and grew up in California, now splits her time between Paris and Connecticut, where she is getting an MFA in photography at the University of Hartford. She approached the project from a very personal place.
"In Sweden, we have our cousins, relatives and friends, and there's still this little bit of feeling like an outsider," she said. "I think, subconsciously, I started this project as a way to deal with that."
She started the series 10 years ago after completing a photography studies program at the International Center of Photography in New York. She wanted to use a large-format film camera and do a project in Sweden, and then this series presented itself.
At first, it was about taking pictures of people wearing cool-looking bathrobes — but it quickly morphed into something else.
"Ultimately, it became an examination for me about the meditative, slow photography process," she said. "It's not fast photography and it's not digital — it's working with film and putting in one negative at a time."
The project also led her into deeper questions about cultural identity.
"What does it mean for me to be Swedish?" she said. "And what's my place here? I was photographing strangers, which wasn't necessarily something people welcomed."
At the beginning, Anderson felt nervous that people wouldn't want her to photograph them, and so her Swedish cousins came along to support her. Eventually she settled into a routine of taking pictures.
"I think that's the American side of me, like 'Yeah, I'm gonna do this, I'm gonna go and take those pictures, and I don't care what people think,'" she said. "I was able to play both sides of that because I speak Swedish and I could relate to the subject and I was a part of the community — this is a place we've been going for 20 years — but I also recognize that it was kind of an 'un-Swedish' thing to do."
Anderson's Swedish-American background is a bit of a complicated story, as well. Her Swedish mom moved to San Francisco, where she met her father, who was born to American Swedish parents.
"When I was 6 years old, my mother would put me on a plane and I would fly from San Francisco to Copenhagen by myself," she said. "My grandparents would pick me up and I'd spend the summer in Sweden with them and my cousins. I did that for years."
She was seen as the "American cousin" in Sweden, but then back in America she was Swedish. She continues the tradition with her family, spending summers in Sweden with her four kids.
Anderson's unique position as someone who is both part of the community in Torekov and an outsider lends another edge to the project.
"It's documentary but it's also like I'm projecting myself," she said. "This is how this society is and this is how this community is and I'm also projecting so much of myself onto it, because I'm deciding — I'm making all the decisions, the composition, and I choose to work with this particular camera. And I'm choosing when to press the shutter button."
The Morning Dip
Where: American Swedish Institute, 2600 Park Av. S., Mpls.
When: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Wed., Fri.-Sun.; 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Thu. Ends Oct. 30.
Cost: $6-$12, free for ages 5 and under.
Info: 612-871-4907 or asimn.org.