Honesty and Fragility in Photography: An Interview with Pernille Sandberg

Pernille Sandberg, a 25-year-old photographer from Denmark, based between Berlin and Copenhagen working in the fields of fashion, portrait, and art. She is currently working from her studio in Oslo. Her recent project, shot with Berlin Kino Film and Earl Grey, is about encapsulating the emotions present in her life and the lives of the women around her.

© Pernille Sandberg

You have an impressive CV & portfolio with a huge and diverse body of work. How come you got interested in so many different fields related to photography and film?

To me, photography is far from bound to solely one industry or aspect of the world. Photographing has always been a way for me to explore emotions, my fantasies and meet the people I'm interested in or get inspired by. Portraying people or playing a part in putting somebody's vision into life has taught me a lot about myself. In other words, the journey of exploring different people, emotions and scenes has also been and still is, a journey inwards.

I believe, that if one has an interest in aesthetics and an ability to daydream you can apply these qualities to absolutely everything in this world. That is probably the reason why I've been working in so many different fields of photography and film so far.

Your images appear emotional, sincere and poetic, regardless if it is a personal project or fashion photography. Is there a border between your personal and commissioned work?

Thank you - I always do my best to express honesty and sincerity in my work. On a few occasions, I've experienced people becoming scared, or even mad, because the portrait was too honest and they didn't want it shown in public. Massimo Leardini, for whom I worked for around a year a few years ago, always told me the best fashion photograph is not a fashion photograph. I believe that is true. My goal is to create a portfolio impossible to separate by commissioned and personal work.

Viviane Sassen is a master at doing precisely this, and I'm a great admirer of her work and way of expressing what she loves. Being able to adjust for every different assignment or art project is a notorious requirement in my opinion, especially if you're a young photographer like me, trying to make a living out of my creative vision - it can be painful to kill your darlings, but listening is a beautiful way of learning too. By keeping these adjustments to the minimum though, I believe there is a chance for both the art and the commercial field to become better, more nuanced and more diverse.

© Pernille Sandberg

So far in your career, what has been your most important or challenging project or collaboration so far?

Choosing only one is difficult, as many projects are the most important for different reasons. My collaboration with the Norwegian art and design agency Void for an exhibition in Tokyo is to mention because through this project I met what turned out to be one of the most important persons in my life. The most challenging project so far has been the series on the up-and-coming reform on decriminalization of drugs I did last summer in Norway. I wanted to cover all aspects of the people involved in the issue of drug addiction - the relatives, the addicted, the governmental players, the organizations, the volunteers, the executive power. It became a very dark, but meaningful summer and I'm thankful to have met all the people involved.

What do you like the most about collaborating with other artists?

It is such a beautiful way of meeting people, get surprised and create something new. Through an art collaboration, I met the 85-year-old artist Eugène van Lamsweerde living and working around an hour from Paris. He still draws, sculptures and paints every single day. He told me to believe and reflect on the emptiness, the void and not only the psychical object that is presented to you. It was a very inspiring experience.

© Pernille Sandberg

Is there something specific you are searching through your photography?

That is still something I ask myself almost every day. Why am I doing this? Where does this eager come from? When I was 16 and began photographing in night clubs, I thought I was doing it because I could attend all the cool parties with a camera around my neck, even though I wasn't even old enough to buy a drink in the bar. When I started shooting fashion, I thought I did it because I wanted to be accepted by the cool crowd. When I photographed the nature of Africa, I thought I did it only to make my father proud. None of that turned out to be exactly correct - it was, and maybe still is, because of fundamental insecurity and disbelief in the world.

I keep on searching for an emotional system I can trust. Photographing is such an intuitive process, so personal, soft and emotional process - at least to me. I shoot to explore sensuality, honesty, and fragility - within myself and other people. I can become obsessed with an emotion, a meeting, a colour, a texture, a physical touch. Working conceptually in the making of art doesn't work for me at all, not at this point in my life at least. When reflecting on this topic, it becomes more clear to me that what I might be searching for through photography is to silence not only my mind, but the shared consciousness, and make one reflect deeply for maybe just a second.

You also have a blog called Everything. What does “Everything” means to you?

The personal photography diary is named 'Everything' because it is not project- or assignment-bound as on my professional website. It is a mix of analogue images from everywhere and of the people I meet on my way - a visual recording which I update regularly. In that sense, it represents a different side of me, more rough and less thought-through.

You shoot both digital and analogue. What makes you decide to shoot with film or digital? And colour and BW?

Most likely you'll find me shooting BW most often. By doing this, I remove the obvious and make room for new interpretations by the observer. In black and white you're presented to a place for reflecting upon textures, surfaces, and depth, but most importantly, emotions. The spurious and pretentious coverup of colour is gone, and the black and white photograph breathes raw and honest authenticity. To me, it is like removing the camouflage and discover reality, as antagonistic as it may sound. I shoot analogue to forget about my process and the analysis of it in the making of a photograph. It leaves space for intuition. Choosing between analogue and digital, or deciding on both, depends on the assignment and time available.

© Pernille Sandberg

We love the photos you did for us! Can you please tell me about the idea behind this series?

The photographs are to be understood as a study of the human bodily and emotional sensations. I will, together with choreographer Aurora Itand, sculpture items from the design studio O-F-C upon the body of an actor and dancer. Tatjana Weddegjerde, represented by Pudder Agency, will be doing hair and make-up. The items are oversize and graphically interesting in their cubistic shapes and raw materials such as leather and metal. The goal is to encapsulate the emotions present in the lives of myself and the women around me - confusion, fragility, yet a strong motivation to live by the rules we believe to be our own. We want to carry the future on our shoulders, be responsible. It is at times exciting and energising - at other times lonely and harsh. The dancer will be playing with her body to visualise the challenges - elegant, sophisticated, yet uncomfortable, even scared.

What do you find most inspiring working as a photographer?

Just that - the meeting with other people and aspects of life. The new meetings with myself and what I thought to be the truth. My perceptions and beliefs, the world, it changes, and I try and embrace it.

Have you ever faced any difficulties as a photographer?

In the last months of 2018, I was faced with intense tenovaginitis in both of my hands, fore- and upper arms. For years I had been overworking and not taken care of myself. From one day to the other I couldn't pick up the camera - it was even difficult for me to brush my teeth. I learned that I am not my work and the that my photographs do not define me as a human being - in other words, I learned the necessity of believing in myself and not always be a part of someone or something else, a collaboration, client or project, to be accepted.

© Pernille Sandberg

How did you like shooting with the Berlin Kino Film & Earl Grey 100? Which one did you prefer and why?

It was great to shoot with the black and white films - they were both very crisp and full of contrast, some aspects of analogue films that I love. Personally, the 400 ISO fits my workflow better, due to practical reasons. The fact that I don't shoot much in bright sunlight is not to be understood metaphorically ;)

written by idatangeraas on 2019-03-08 #culture #people

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