Ole Brodersen - Issue Thirteen Interview

Thank you so much for talking with us! Please introduce yourself to our readers.

Hello, my name isOleBrodersen, I am a Norwegian photographer based, born and raised on a car free island off the Norwegian southern coast. I am strongly connected to this place, the 12th generation in my family, and the maritime elements here dominate my motifs. My father is a sailmaker, my grandfather was a sailor, I used to row to school, I sailed since the age of six and I have circumnavigated the Atlantic Ocean. I have been the pupil of Dag Alveng, one of the first conceptual photographers in Norway, who is represented at i.e. MoMa and the Met. As my old master, I also print large format darkroom prints from large negatives. I have set up my darkroom in my fathers sail loft, on the island, based in an old herring saltery.

What are the main themes you pursue in photography?

My work explores the landscape and the natural forces that animate it. I am attempting to show something beyond the appearances; the experience of the observer in the landscape. I try to capture the feeling of being present in the landscape, by making images that are, to an extent, a direct imprint of the environment in motion. This can be achieved only in a semi-controlled manner, where I give up some of the control over the influence on the final image.

The majority of the images are seascapes, and were taken in and around Lyngør. This area has a very long seafaring history that stretches back for generations. Everyday life here is intricately bound with and supported by the sea. The fact that Lyngør is so prominent in my work is not surprising. It provides a subject matter and a natural backdrop for my pictorial experiments.

Unlike snapshots, I operate in an expanded temporal register. Through long exposures, multi-exposures, tricolor or rotating panorama shots, I work with intervals of time, which gives space to the forces in the landscape. As well as my participation and influence on the result is reduced. In Horizontal Displacement for example, I photograph from a drifting boat. Here, a long exposure, combined with the boat moving heavily (less control) abstracts the image. An expression we usually combine with subjectivity (in painting), is created through an objective approach.

What excites you most when out taking shots?

Working with film and this «objective approach» of mine obviously increases the excitement regarding the development of the negatives, and seeing the final result. As for the actual recordings, they are quite laborious, especially now that I have taken the step up from 4x5 to 8x10. The whole kit is now around 40kg and a considerable amount of time passes before I can even start studying the ground glass. This does give me more time out in the open, which is always a pleasure. As we say in Norway; There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing. Well, to some extent, as the equipment has to survive too.

In Horizontal Displacement, photographing at sea, well, I get to spend time at sea. The color part of this series consists of triple exposed images, taken before sunrise, at solar noon and after sunset. Forcing myself to head out into the open sea at these three moments every day, was a very good idea.

Have you always had an interest in nature?

I don’t think I can say I have always had a chosen interest in nature, but it has always been necessary for me to relate to it. In Lyngør, living on this threshold, you grow up to be constantly aware of the changes in the air and sea. High tide? Check the moorings. Heavy snowfall? Shovel snow off the boats. I was further exposed to nature while circumnavigating the Atlantic Ocean. Accompanied by a few close friends, aboard a 37 feet wooden sailboat built in 1894, I led a life in elemental enclosure.

After turning my profession towards photography, about 10 years ago, this «forced» relation to nature has turned into a strong interest. Through my quasi-scientific approach I try to show the hidden forces of the landscape by giving up some control of the photographic process. With the use of these methods I get to observe and relate to nature in a new way. For me it has been an eye opener, and somehow it is tricky to undo or unsee this.

What are your thoughts on rewilding?

The decline of untouched nature and the unprecedented species extinction rates are now a greater concern than the CO2 levels in the atmosphere. Rewilding and/or the protection of existing wild areas, are of extreme importance. This should be common knowledge by now, but it is not unfortunately. The problem is the same as with other climate related issues: The consequences aren’t shown immediately.

How important are the arts in communicating the need for rewilding?

Ever since I started working with photography, I have been using the forces of nature as a key element in my work. This objective approach is now a common thread for me. I do like rewilding does; leave it to nature. I never did feel the need to communicate climate change, loss of wild nature or species extinction in my project descriptions - as I feel any educated person should be aware and concerned about these themes. But, as mentioned above, this is not the case, and I guess I need to talk about it. I have no idea what the effect of this communication will be, but when every field imaginable has implemented this discourse, changes will have to come.

Do you have anything exciting on the horizon that you can tell us about?

I have an upcoming residency on another island up the coast for September and October. I have been joking about how nice it will be to be able to stay on a car free island with 60 inhabitants for many months (‘cause that’s what I do everyday). But well, it is still not casting pearls before swine, because these two islands are very topographically different. Jomfruland is a terminal moraine, and consists of sand and rolling rocks, very different from my rocky home Lyngør. The sea is shallower and will provide me with very different views. This will be my first project with 8x10 and is very exciting.

Lyngør recently established a new national park, where 98% of it is under water. This is basically the same terminal moraine that Jomfruland consists of, and thus we are connected geographically. The new work that I would like to explore at Jomfruland would be in line with my general preoccupations.

My intention is to make a series of photographs taken from the shore, looking outward to the sea from a fixed position, and making sets of triple exposures. The common thread will be obtained by introducing an objective element; the time interval between the exposures will be decided by the wind speed. Due to a fixed camera, I would expect the images to have a certain deceptive ‘coherence' at first glance, only gradually revealing themselves to be constructed out of layered cloud configurations and overlapping wave patterns. The images and landscape will share a gesture of layering and accumulation of traces of movement.

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