Interview #58: Erik Mowinckel
CUS: How did you get into photography?
Erik Mowinckel: Me and a friend used to walk around the neighborhood, taking photos and filming each other doing stuff we thought was funny or cool. The results were mostly photographs of us jumping from containers or roofs. We made a few movies as well.
CUS: Did you study, or are you studying, photography? If not, how did you learn?
EM: I did study photography for two years, a sort of preparatory school we have in Oslo. But most of the technical knowledge came from trying things out and reading on the internet.
CUS: Tell us a little about where you live. How does your city/country/current location have an affect on your photography?
EM: I live in Oslo. I've lived here for the past six years. I have a specific mindset when I'm at home, like most people probably. I have a lot of routines; I usually walk around the city through the same routes. Bringing a camera on these walks makes me more alert to situations I come across. Though I usually feel more inspired to take pictures when I'm on the move, it could be a boat trip or a week in the south of Norway.
CUS: What did you have for breakfast this morning?
EM: This morning I was at my grandfathers house in Bergen and I ate two pieces of bread with mayo, salami and cucumber. a combo my grandfathers girlfriend suggested I try.
CUS: What makes a good image?
EM: I have always loved the feeling of familiarity in a photograph, feeling like I can relate though I have never been there. Usually this involves people, but it can also be a picture of a house or a street, anything basically. I remember specifically a picture of pupils in a high school cafeteria (I don´t remember the photographer), I instantly thought of the complex net of relations which is always present in a school. The dynamic in a group of people.
CUS: What are five things you can’t live without?
EM: Close friends, family, photography, music and walking
CUS: Who, or what, is your biggest influence?
EM: Photographs I have seen over the years that have made an impression on me and given me a feeling of the extent of the medium and art in general. For a long time this feeling of connecting to pictures was mostly tied to single images and the fact that it was possible to communicate something valuable so clearly within a frame. I also appreciate series of photographs and the ideas you can promote through a narrative in a book or exhibition for instance. Also, the work of Andy Goldsworthy made a big impact on me.
CUS: Do you believe that with the rise of digital photography the phrase “everyone can be a photographer” is true? What are your thoughts on digital vs. film photography?
EM: I work in a photography shop (developing film and printing from digital images) and I´ll admit most of the photographs are boring, but there have been a few sincerely amazing photos, where the context established by the accompanying images makes it reasonable to assume they don´t consider themselves professional photographers.
So I do think everyone is capable of taking photographs that are interesting, but not everyone can consciously make a great book of photographs unless they devote a lot of time and thought to it. I guess the first step is wanting to explore someone, something or somewhere with a camera. Whether you use film or digital will effect how you work, in terms of digital giving you faster feedback. I walked around with my old 350d one night and really enjoyed the change of pace, but the tones in the photos were horrible (as the camera is 10 years old, which in the digital world means really old). I would buy a full format digital camera if I could afford it though.
CUS: What are your thoughts on photography and the Internet? (For example, mass amounts of images being uploaded every day via sites such as Flickr, Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram...) How do you differentiate "art" photography and "non-art" photography?
EM: I guess art photography would be spending your time creating a body of photographs, searching for or staging something you consider to have a certain quality. Wanting to contribute to the community of people who use cameras to express their surroundings.
CUS: Do you think that the Internet (as opposed to a gallery or any other art institution) is a legitimate place to showcase photographic work or do photographs have to be seen in "the flesh" to be fully appreciated and experienced?
EM: Once the photograph is printed it becomes a physical statement as well, you get an entire new platform for playing with whatever is depicted in the photograph through the possibilities of placement. I think Wolfgang Tilmanns does this incredibly well. At the same time the internet offers yet another platform, with completely different perks. You have all these codes that you could choose from, and I think they as well can enforce the image.
CUS: You seem to enjoy playing with color and composition in order to create an abstracted and minimalist image. (Do you agree?) What is it about abstraction and minimalism that interests you?
EM: I agree that there is a minimalism there, I often go as close as I can without losing anything of what I consider important. I enjoy covering the entire image in something that would otherwise just be a detail of a larger structure. This is another aspect of image making I enjoy; how you hint at a larger whole by showing a part of it. Photography is practically built for this.
CUS: What are your plans for the summer?
EM: Going to Helsinki and Dublin to visit friends, working and, hopefully, get into the art academy in Bergen.
CUS: What tips would you give to get out of a creative slump?
EM: Reading interviews with artists you enjoy.
CUS: What advice would you give to your fellow up-and-coming photographers?
EM: Have fun :)
CUS: What do you hope to achieve with your photography? Do you foresee photography as a career in your future?
EM: I know I want to take pictures, but I don´t know if I want or can make a career out of it yet. I hope to travel more, and generally put more ideas into work.
CUS: Can you tell us about any upcoming projects or shows?
EM: I am applying for the art academy both in Bergen and Oslo. And if I get through to the second round, I start working on a project a month or so before the interview. In Oslo this means exhibiting the work, in bergen I just bring it to the school like a portfolio I think. I have a couple of ideas for this, one is finding some sort of theme, dynamic or principle and illustrating it through both staging photographs (which I´ve almost never done) and looking for it in my environment.
CUS: Our last interviewee, Adam Revington, asks: Why take pictures?
EM: To engage in your surroundings.
CUS: Last but not least, what would you like to ask the next interviewee?
EM: What makes a good series?