Tine Bek is a Danish photographer currently based in-between Glasgow and Copenhagen.
Within the last years Tine has attended Fatamorgana (The Danish school of Art Photography), assisted at Ryan McGinleys studio in New York. After graduating from her bachelor in Fine Art in 2013 Tine spend 3 moths in Buenos Aires taking part of a residency program. Today she is back in school doing a Masters degree in photography and moving image (Mlitt) at Glasgow School of Art.
Tine (T) was interview by Kristine Gausereide Jacobsen (K), February 2015. Kristine is a documentary filmmaker and the two studied together at Fatamorgana in 2008.
K: Why do you take pictures?
T: I know it sounds a bit cliché, but I always wanted to be a photographer. I just decided that this was my thing and I have stuck to it. Today I can’t imagine going any other way. For me personally photography has been a way of digesting the world, it has become more than just a tool, it is very much a part of who I am as a person.
Taking pictures is a good excuse for me to observe people, and get to know different environments. I think that’s actually a way of boiling it down; I like looking at people, the way we act, interact and our settings. Often when I take pictures its because I’m captured by something so beautiful that I just wont let it pass, I want to capture it, to own it in a way, because within a second it will be gone, and that specific light or facial expression might never occur again.
K: What kind of circumstances make you take pictures, is there a specific feeling or mood you are looking for?
T: For me personally it can be anything from a dog to a certain light in my kitchen. I always find a lot of inspiration when I go traveling, or even just if I go to a new part of town that I have not yet explored. The pictures can be taken anywhere because what I am looking for is much more a state of mind than anything.
I have always been fascinated with restrictions, rituals and etiquette; in my work I often interpret this by showing the loneliness and beautiful oddness in our everyday. Architecture is also something that has been on my mind a lot. I like to show how strange it all is, this world of interiors and objects that we have constructed has somehow gotten more sophisticated than we are as people. We are all these tiny individuals caught in the midst of our own creations. And humour is definitely also something I try to incorporate in my images, a grotesqueness that becomes absurd due to the situation.
When shooting I often look for contradictions. I like finding situations where things are turned upside down, hereby creating a new meaning. This could be a businessman in a nice suit sitting on a tiny chair, or statue of a dog breastfeeding human babies. The absurd and bizarre therefor often become my drive when looking for images.
K: Can you tell me a bit about you journey within photography, how did it all start?
T: At the age of 12 I remember deciding that I was going to be a photographer. I started taking strange staged photographs of my friends dressed up with way too much makeup on. In the beginning I was not sure of how to take the images I wanted or where it belonged in the bigger picture.
I went to Fatamorgana for a year, learned so much and this just opened all the doors I did not even know existed before. I got to meet people who where interested in the same, and somehow the world just got a lot bigger. I think this was one of the first really important chapters for me as an artist and I remember when graduating I felt like anything was possible.
I realised that I could take a university degree in photography, hereby mixing my interests in history, academia and art. I also got this amazing network of friends and colleagues whom I still have a lot of contact with, including you Kristine.
Today I’m doing my Masters degree in Glasgow. I feel like there was so much travelling going on the last 6 years, moving about all the time, so I’m really happy to be back in Scotland, and just focus a bit on my work and finishing some projects.
K: I know that you use to carry your camera around all the time, and your early visual aesthetic had some connections with snapshot photography, do you still work in that way? Or have you developed a new workflow?
T: I have figured out a way of incorporating the constant picture making with an actual artistic practice. I started out early on just shooting away like a maniac, but I almost drowned in material, so I had to find a new approach to photography.
Today I try to be more precious about my images, and give them the time and space they deserve, so I don’t loose out on images that could be great just because I’m busy taking new photos.
I still have my little point and shoot camera with me all the time, just in case something amazing occurs. However most of the time, unless I’m travelling, there is a bit more productions behind each image, Ill have something on my mind, and then Ill go try and get it, but I’m still working on finding the perfect balance between my impulses as a maker and the planning of work. I think that is actually what keeps it interesting, the never-ending development.
K: What makes an image interesting to you?
T: I think images are interesting when they have more than one layer, and when you can see that the photographer made a clear decision when taking the picture. It could be the angle, the colours, maybe what we don’t see in the image is what has the most importance, and less is more, sometimes. But I think that what I like in a general picture varies from what I would photograph myself. With my own work I’m very critical, and because I spend so much time with images I do have a certain way of viewing images, but I like various kinds of pictures. Especially paintings have started interesting me a lot lately, and I love spending time in old museums. I think the images I look at vary a lot according to my mood.
K: How do you work to create the right expression in your projects?
T: Well, I shoot on film. Actually I started out working digitally, but I would always put tons of layers and adjust the images in Photoshop in order to find the right aesthetics, until someone suggested that I just shot analogue. I have used various cameras; I really have an obsession with gadgets, photo/porn! However I have narrowed it down to a couple of cameras that I know very well now, and which gives me the results I want. I shot both analogue and digital though, it depends on the project or job.
My kitchen in Glasgow gets a really nice light because it is high up, so I have been taking a lot of my still life images there. Generally this is something I have noticed vary a lot from country to country, the light. When I lived in New York I was very fascinated with the specific tension between shadow and sun, due to the architecture. Scotland has a similar light certain times in the year, it just blows my mind every time, and especially late afternoon sun is my favourite. If I’m looking for a specific image I try to go to places where I think I can find it, so Ill do some research, and try out different locations. Very much of my work is about the actual places, and mostly indoors.
K: You often work with series of images. How do you put the sequencing together?
T: When I was growing up I always watched a lot of films, and I believe that this is something I have taken with me into my practice. There is definitely a specific mood that I’m very much attracted to.
When I look at my different projects I can see a clear overall aesthetic, but this being said I do try to vary it from series to series. For example at the moment I’m working on a book titled Barok. It is a collection of images from the last two years that all have the same expression of overflow and excess.
Desire, pleasure and sorrow are the main affects that I try to utilize in this body of work that turns and changes the viewer’s perception in unexpected ways. Every image is a fold that allows multiple readings and changes the conditions of looking through visual material that is as visceral as it is tactile.
Each page in the book is very dense and heavy in a way. So as a natural development I started working on another series of images while editing Barok, and these pictures are very calm and straight in a way. So one is a result of the other. I’m always juggling that balance I think.
When I sequence books for example I normally just throw them together in the order I feel like. For me this is always the best way to do it. I feel like my intuition and I are very good friends and I trust it 99%. I use to take other peoples opinions before considering how I wanted the images sequenced, and I still do value other people’s opinion, it is so important. However the final call is always my decision.
K: I know that you have recently started working with moving image, and I know you used to work with that when we where in school together at Fatamorgana about 6 years ago. What is it that interests you with video work, and what does it give you that you can’t get out of your still images?
T: Well it moves! I think it was always in the cards for me to try the medium out, so I’m very exited to see where it takes me. Although related to photography I feel that in spite of it being more time consuming and difficult at times, video feels like a fresh breeze for me right now. At the moment I’m kind of throwing a lot of balls in the air, so it will be exiting to see if I can catch them all. But you are right I did do some video really early on, however I think it scared me too much. The amount of planning and postproduction does not really fit my temperament, or so I thought.
I still find it very intimidating, but that’s also partly why I do it. For my personal work I’m currently working on two films:
One is a documentary with a writer from Glasgow. The film is titled: King of West Princes street. It is a gathering of various stories about this mysterious man who owns buildings all over Glasgow, and his strange ways. There is still a lot of shooting left, but we hope to finish it in the fall of 2015.
Alongside this I’m also trying to incorporate vignette style video films into my personal practice. These works are very much inspired by the films of Danish poet and director Jørgen Leth. As a series of chapters each film has an overall theme, however they are all related to female identity in cities. I make work that is based on sensation. Looking at the representation of the female body and working along a complex set of values, I try to questions the set conventions of sensation through the very act of looking.
I think this is actually a subject that is peeping out more and more in everything I do, the notion of the female. Earlier on I did not want this to be a theme that was noticeable in my work, I wanted to be one of the boys, and pretended like there was no difference. I think I was a bit scared of feminism and I never wanted to be placed in a certain category or box. I do however find the history of the female very interesting, so within my work I try to keep that focus while being somewhat neutral and objective. I’m actually also editing a book on that subject at the moment. I won’t go into detail here, but it does deal with these ideas about the feminine and photography. I’m working with 10 female photographers from all over, and will hopefully be published later in 2015, so stay tuned!
All images are copyright Tine Bek.