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Photographing the “Russ” Rite of Passage in Norway

Posted by on August 25, 2016 | Photographer Interviews

Each year before final exams, 40,000 Norwegian high school seniors hit the road for a month of partying. It’s called the russefeiring (students who take part are called russ), and the tradition has grown to become commercialized, with sponsored party busses, russ uniforms sold online and special ID cards for entry into clubs and bars. It’s a rite of passage that photographer Maria Gossé took part of 14 years ago—though from a smaller town, her experience was less commercialized, she says—and now participates in as an observer for her series “The Fall.”

Gossé describes the tradition as “theater” where “everybody plays their expected part”: The schools complain over students’ grades (school is still in session during the month), parents worry their kids will drink too much, and economists condemn the out-of-control, frivolous spending that takes place (busses alone can cost up to $300,000). Gossé says: “[Though] the russ celebration has many problematic aspects, it is also a rite of passage characterized by community and cooperation, new acquaintances, entrepreneurship and project management, dancing, sex and freedom.

All photos © Maria Gossé
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