Book Review: NEW DANISH PHOTOGRAPHY #01
Disko Bay is an independent photo book publisher based in Copenhagen, Denmark. It designs and prints books in very limited runs, with the aim of promoting Danish photographers on the international photography scene and in the world of photobooks. I have already told you about Disko Bay during the review of Mads Joakim Rimer Rasmussen’s book, “Vokseværk”.
Dansk Dokumentarisme is an online platform that deals with documentary photography, dedicating itself, in particular, to Danish documentary photographers. The platform selects new photographic works, exhibitions, conferences and relevant discussions.
From the collaboration between the editorial skills of Stinus Duch, founder of Diskobay Books, and the critical gaze of Sigrid Nygaard and Emil Ryge, authors of Dansk Dokumentarisme, “New Danish Photography” was born. The first issue, published in June 2023, contains 12 projects that aim to be representative of the current state of Danish photography. They are very different works from the point of view of style and content, but the selected photographers have in common the desire and curiosity to explore an increasingly complex world.
What I would like to focus my attention on is the idea behind this publication. What led to the creation of “New Danish Photography” is discussed in the final essay by Mette Sandbye, professor of the Department of Arts and Cultural Studies at the University of Copenhagen. The teacher analyzes how having associated Danish documentary photography for too long with traditions such as humanism, typical of the post-war period, has hindered its evolution towards an artistic vision.
“So, allow me to set the record straight, once and for all: Documentary photography is an art form.
Photographers who identify with this genre or are associated with it glean their material from the real world (just as many painters, installation artists, writers and film directors do), but capture, order, interpret, sort and present it in photographic form on the basis of a personal position or point of view. A conceptual approach. They do not create fiction, nor fact. Rather, they direct an autonomous, creative gaze on material found in the world. They tell stories about reality in a new way, guided by an artistic ambition. Sometimes stories about the familiar, or what we thought we knew and have seen many times before. And sometimes, about the entirely unknown.”
Photography is not simply “a window on the world,” as it was once described, but also a material, a lens and a technology that requires countless aesthetic decisions. Today’s Danish documentary projects, as we see them presented in this magazine, focus on social, everyday and political issues, in Denmark and around the world. They are presented in a way that is at once aesthetic, critical and self-aware, which creates new possibilities for encounters across gender, body, geography and nationality and offers us new insights into what we thought we knew.
Here is an overview of the selection of projects included in this journal:
- Luca Berti opens the first edition of New Danish Photography with Jordfast (a Danish word which literally means “tied to the earth”), a work that lasted 7 years and focused on the relationship between the inhabitants, the land and the culture of the island of Samsø (Denmark).
- “Daughters of Nairobi,” by Sofia Busk, talks about how poverty and lack of infrastructure impact women who give birth to children after rape.
- Oscar Scott Carl collects the stories of the patients of Scott’s House, a small hospice located in New Mexico (USA) that offers free palliative care for terminally ill patients.
- “I am fat”, by Maria Hald, shifts attention to the growing phenomenon of “fat” activism and body positivity in Scandinavia.
- “HRTLND”, by Mad Holm, is a reflection on the militarization of urban life, on how the fleeting differences between simulation and reality contribute to the fabrication and celebration of war.
- With “Old Tjikko” Nicolai Howalt proposes a series of images of the oldest tree in the world (9,600 years old) displayed on 97 different varieties of obsolete photographic paper. His intent is to think about what exactly we see when we look at a photograph, and how what we see influences what we understand.
- Petra Kleis, deeply fascinated by the freedom and playfulness expressed by the model Maja Malou Lyse, portrays her looking at her body as a desired object and desiring subject. “Girlification” is a reflection on the interaction between photographer, subject and dominant representations and ideologies of sex.
- Asger Ladefoged introduces the element of time into war reporting, with his before and after images of the Ukrainian town of Bucha following Russian attacks.
- “A Tree Called Home,” by Kent Klich, is a critical analysis of a system built to house and care for citizens deemed “undesirable” in Russia. People with physical and mental disabilities are stigmatized, hidden from the public and made largely invisible in a network of state-run institutions.
- “The Ritual” by Tobias Nicolai starts from a very singular ritual, which takes place in Jutland (Denmark) and involves being covered in cinnamon from head to toe, to investigate the subtle balance between tradition and joking, creating images that give rise to more questions than answers.
- Through photography and text, Danish artist Matilde Søes Rasmussen explores her history as a professional model. “Unprofessional” is a project that moves between documentation and fiction, performance and real life, in which Rasmussen uses his own body to investigate his own image and identity.
- Keepers of the Ocean, by Inuuteq Storch, portrays the small community of Sisimiut (West Greenland) where the photographer was born. The everyday scenes, made unusual by the extreme climatic conditions, are told with an intuitive narrative style that draws the viewer into the image.
NEW DANISH PHOTOGRAPHY #01
Text by Mette Sandbye and Emil Ryge
Editing and layout by Stinus Duch, Emil Ryge and Jacob Haagen Birch
20 × 27 cm
264 pages, 193 plates in full color offset
Language: Danish and English
First edition 1000 copies
Published 8 June 2023
Published by Diskobay Books: https://www.diskobay.org/books/new-danish-photography-01/
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