Per Bak Jensen
Life Itself Unfolding
“Today, it is a luxury to find a quiet space.”
Meet one of the most renowned photographers of our time, Danish Per Bak Jensen, who reflects upon life in photography in this very personal interview. “What I’d like people to experience when they see my pictures is a request for calm. A request for silence. Perhaps even meditation.” Read more …
Per Bak Jensen has his own way of defining photography. “To me, it isn’t the camera. It’s life itself unfolding. I don’t feel that I create much. I’d rather receive something and learn more about myself and about living. I believe that there’s something all around us. Among us is something that wants to be in contact with us. I sense something in our midst. Something that wants to be in touch with us. And the feeling that something is knocking on our door and that something wants to tell me something that can increase my knowledge of being a human being. And it cannot be described in words.”
“I know it sounds like a cliché, but I’ll still maintain that the photos I take aren’t photos that I take myself. It’s a cooperation between me and something else that makes me take the pictures. I’d rather claim that the fundamental value of art is the spirit. And the spirit wants to contact us, but it’s invisible. We can’t see the spirit or whatever we should call it. But somehow, it gives us an odd desire. It gives us courage. And it gives us a life force. We have a life force given to us by something in our midst. And that could be a spirit. If that’s the case, traces of that spirit can be seen in our images. I think that everyone working with images hopes so. That one can find a life force and spirituality in one’s work.”
Most artists, Jensen continues, see photos as ordinary images or perhaps as ordinary reality. According to him though images like paintings and sculptures should be regarded as doors that can open.
“You can look at photos in very many ways. One way is to look at them as windows to the world. The viewers of the image, along with the photographer, can look through the window that’s been opened. Others say that one can look at a picture as if it were a mirror. What you see and what attracts your attention is something that’s inside of you because the image that’s been taken has something to do with what’s inside you. When you look at my photos, you’ll find something that somehow reminds you of yourself in them.”
“I prefer photography in colour, but I’m afraid of colours because colours can be seductive. Colours can deceive me. Sometimes I’m lured into taking photos because of the colours. Instead of what’s behind the colours.”
“The world is diverse. And you can easily fall in love with something that you perhaps shouldn’t. I’ve always been afraid of the wonderful and the beautiful. I’ve always been scared of the aesthetic. When I see something beautiful that wants me to take a photo of it, I try and see if I can avoid the beauty. I try to tighten it up, so it’s not the form but the content that stands out.”
Being 73 years of age and having survived a period with cancer, Per Bak Jensen, at the end of the interview, reflects that every photographer has a limited number of pictures inside him and should not exceed this quota. Also, he sees death as a part of life that should be addressed instead of ignored:
“People probably react differently to not being middle-aged and that there are fewer photos in the future and many more in the past. The idea of mortality and that everything has its time is something you must accept. In your conversation with yourself, you have to address the fact that your life is limited and your work life is little. You have to get used to those facts. You have to call the troll by its name. Not that it’ll disappear. But it will change character.”
Per Bak Jensen (b. 1949) is one of Denmark’s leading photographers and a pioneer of modern landscape photography, known for his desolate images of nature, interiors and industrial sites. He studied at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts (1980-1986) and was the first graduate to use photography as his only art form. His photographs have been shown in numerous exhibitions. They are part of the collection of museums such as the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Bibliothèque Nationale de France in Paris, as well as the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Humlebæk, Denmark. In the spring of 2022, Per Bak Jensen published his latest book Skyggens Vandring at Strandberg Publishing, Copenhagen.
Per Bak Jensen was interviewed by Marc-Christoph Wagner at his home in Vemmetofte, Denmark, in February 2022.
Camera: Jarl Therkelsen Kaldan
Edited by: Jarl Therkelsen Kaldan
Produced by: Jarl Therkelsen Kaldan & Marc-Christoph Wagner
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2022
Louisiana Channel is supported by Den A.P. Møllerske Støttefond, Ny Carlsbergfondet, C.L. Davids Fond og Samling and Fritz Hansen.
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