Tor Eigeland, aged 91, a Norwegian born internationally known photojournalist lives a quiet life in Dorset, a county in southwest England.
Tor has launched his book Stuff Happens — the Far from Humdrum Life of a Photojournalist, which offers ample recollection of his visits to Oman starting from the 1970s. He recollects having then returned at least a dozen times over the next 35 years, staying for two or three weeks each trip.
He was privileged to have access to people and places, traveling widely and covering a lot of ground in a short time.
In his book Stuff Happens — the Far from Humdrum Life of a Photojournalist, Tor looks back over a life packed with adventures, starting in 1947 when he set off from Oslo — aged just 16, as a deckhand bound for Shanghai. His desire to travel and a keen sense of curiosity led him into photojournalism.
Published earlier in 2022, his book recounts stories and anecdotes from about 60 years of worldwide travel, contributing to some of the top publications:
“This incredible, unique memoir, with varied tales and anecdotes, the culmination of a life’s work — all wonderfully photographed — is captivating from start to finish.”
Tor’s first noteworthy assignment to the Sultanate of Oman was back in 1981 for a National Geographic book titled The Desert Realm. Having already worked on other Geographic book projects, he was assigned the Middle East chapter, which took him to Saudi Arabia, Oman and Jordan.
Says Tor, “My text highlighted the history, development, geography and people, and in Oman I traveled widely from Salalah to Musandam to see and learn as much as possible.”
One moment that still stands out in his mind was when he was on his way to photograph the beautiful Mughsayl and Taqah beach with the mountains behind.
Tor recalls that the beach was deserted, only a few fishing boats pulled up on the sand. “Nobody around. The following day I went back and it was like a different place. There were millions of sardines all drying in the sun. The sand was completely covered and it was an incredible sight.”
Looking back at what he wrote in that Desert Realm chapter, Tor called Oman “a land of watchtowers and castles, and a thousand miles of unspoiled beaches along the Sea of Oman and Arabian Sea”.
Much of what he learnt about Oman for that National Geographic book helped him for another large assignment a couple of years later for Aramco World, a bi-monthly subscription only magazine.
An entire special issue in 1983 featured the Sultanate of Oman, titled Oman — A New Dawn. His memorable visit to Washington DC is referred in his recently published book, Stuff Happens — the Far from Humdrum Life of a Photojournalist.
In the chapter dedicated to Oman he also writes: “For that special 1983 Aramco World issue, I travelled to or over most corners of the country to get these photos, which showed everything from crafts, frankincense, the forts and beautiful beaches to the mountains and the wonderful people.”
Not long after that assignment he was privileged to be asked by the Ministry of Information to take photographs for Oman ’85, the Ministry’s yearbook.
Very luckily, he knew Tony Ashworth, who worked for the Ministry and was able to facilitate access for Tor which included time with the Royal Air Force of Oman (RAFO) so he could obtain aerial shots of a large part of the country including Musandam.
In helicopters they flew over the capital area and up to the rugged mountains and Al Jabal al Akhdhar. Flying quite low, busily photographing, Tor waved at some farmers on the ground who happily waved back. Flying over Nizwa and the Al Hajar Mountain chain, high and low over the incredible landscape and mountains gave him some very exciting moments, highly memorable to this day.
In 1987 Tor was back to take photos of scientists in the Rimal al Sharqiya working on the most intensive desert study at that time, led by the London-based Royal Geographical Society.
A total of 32 research projects were taking place over a five-month period covering everything from the dew-drinking beetle to the importance of ghaf tree in reforestation of arid areas.
Of particular interest was the study of the sand dune formation and movements giving evidence of environmental changes over thousands of years as well as signs of early inhabitants.
Rimal al Sharqiya was chosen for this study due to Oman’s environmental policy and his photos were to show the scientists at work and were published in an Aramco World feature.
In 1987, he was back for a feature on Amouage, Oman’s famous perfume, known as the ‘Gift of Kings’. He saw how the frankincense resin is harvested from the trees in the desert near Salalah and spent time with Guy Robert, one of the world’s best perfumers. Guy created the original Amouage and Amouage Gold fragrances.
In 2006, Tor completed his last assignment in Oman and it was for an entirely different kind of story for a glossy Spanish travel magazine, affiliated to National Geographic Traveller.
His text and photos, a 12-page feature, highlighted the history, geography and development of Oman and all there is to see and do for a visitor, from visiting old forts to lying on beautiful beaches or excursions into the desert.
“Oman has a special place in my memory. I was lucky to visit before its modernisation and much later. I am pleased to say that many of my early photos live on and are now of historical and cultural interest,” adds Tor.
After a few different cameras in the early years, like Rolleiflex and Hasselblad, Tor changed to Nikon, first as analogue and then digital. Nikon D300 and Nikon 7000 were two of his favourites in later years, both digital.
Stuff Happens — the Far from Humdrum Life of a Photojournalist, is available to buy online through Amazon sites worldwide and with free international delivery from Book Depository.
Tor’s last professional assignment was in 2016, and now takes pictures for pleasure. For details visit www.toreigeland.com and Instagram @toreigeland