"Beside a Western water tank one cold December day
Inside an empty boxcar, a dying hobo lay
His partner stood beside him with a low and bowed down head
Listening to the last words that the dying hobo said
I am going to a better land where everything is bright
Where handouts grow on bushes and you sleep out every night"
– Arthur Fields, 1923
Bear Field Mountains is a photographic novel by Björn Engberg about a journey along the remote freight train tracks of northern Scandinavia. A dreamy voyage in search of a promised land, hidden somewhere at the end of the railroad.
The idea of a forgotten utopia located along the train tracks has it’s roots in an old hobo myth from the turn of the 19th century. A myth which could be described as a modern version of the medieval concept of Cockaigne, an imaginary land of plenty and ease. Examples of the hobo version of Cockaigne is manifested in songs like Arthur Fields' “The Dying Hobo” (1923), about a dying man’s last wish to take a freight train to paradise.
Engberg’s utopia, or rather his search for it, lead us through a wild land, seemingly deserted by humans but filled with curious animals and strange plants. More than just portraying the wilderness, his pictures build a narrative, or even an abstract map, of a physical as well as a spiritual journey to paradise.