When explosions struck downtown Oslo, Norway, on Friday, Olav Ljone Skogaas was sitting in his second-floor office a few blocks from the Norwegian prime minister’s office.
“We heard a rumble and then a massive crash. I almost thought it was thunder at first and then realized it was something completely different. The windows in my boss’s office were completely blown out and we evacuated,” he told Slate over the phone.
Thirty-five-year-old Skogaas works for a translation agency by day, but his passion is street photography. As soon as he’d called his wife tell her he was OK, he pulled out his Leica camera and began photographing the glass-filled streets around him. He captured images of shock and rubble as he tried to pinpoint the origin of the blasts.
“There were a lot of people running in the streets. A lot of alarms went off. … There was mad confusion, but also there was a bit of calm [and the attitude] ‘Let’s see what happened, lets take care of the injured and get this done,’ ” he says.
Documenting downtown Oslo is a regular part of life for Skogaas, who says he usually has his camera on hand when outside the office. Looking through his photos on Flickr, some taken just a few days ago, gives you a sense of what downtown Oslo is like on a normal summer day. People are shopping, cooling off in a fountain, hula-hooping in the street.
In the gallery above, we alternated these earlier images with photos Skogaas took after the blasts in order to contextualize this city in crisis. Although Skogaas’ previous photos don’t show exactly the same locations as those hit by Friday’s explosions, all the black-and-white photographs were taken within three blocks of the government buildings affected, according to Skogaas.
When Slate reached Skogaas, he was done shooting for the day. Sitting at home with his wife, watching TV, and fielding calls from friends and family, Skogaas said locals are feeling “a lot of confusion … shock and outrage and fear, of course. But most of my friends from what I’ve seen on Facebook, there is also a feeling that we won’t let this dictate our lives.”
Late Friday, Norwegian state TV announced that seven people had been killed and at least 15 injured in the explosions. An unknown number of others were also hurt when a man dressed as a police officer opened fire on a summer camp for political youth.
None of Skogaas’ friends or colleagues were injured, as far as he knows. It’s fortunate, he said, that the blasts went off on a summer afternoon during peak vacation season. “I think a lot of people had taken an early day,” he said.
Had he left work just a bit earlier himself, he might well have been photographing—as he often does—closer to the main blast site.