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EXPLORING PHILOSOPHY AND HUMAN PSYCHOLOGY THROUGH PHOTOGRAPHY WITH PERNILLE SANDBERG

This month’s featured artist is Oslo based Danish photographer Pernille Sandberg. After moving from her hometown in Copenhagen to Berlin at the age of 18, Pernille began to explore her visual voice through the inspiring people she met. Fascinated by the transgender world, she comments on the boundaries and systems that define how humans navigate life through her photography.

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What do you hope to translate through your work?

Ultimately, my goal is to inspire my audience to re-evaluate their lifestyle. Our lives can be lived in endless ways and we’re the only ones who are creating how we navigate on this piece of Earth. Pompous, you might say, but think about it – if nobody aims high, explores and investigates themselves and their surroundings psychically and psychologically through a hedonistic approach we won’t progress and get closer to universal happiness. On this journey, pain is, in my opinion, an inevitable element, that deserves to be visualized too. Pain is an emotion we’ll have to deal with and accept, and I see a lot of pain shining through my work.

How did you develop your style? Was there a period of trial and error before you found a medium that worked for you?

When I was around 16 I began studying fashion design and tailoring. I had made fashion drawings and spent all my pocket money on magazines since I was 10- years-old. I was excessively confident that I would have a successful career as a fashion designer. Quite immediately though I realized I found it much more entertaining to photograph my own and my fellow student’s designs once they were finished and place their work in new contexts, creating a visual bridge between my own and the designer’s vision.

When did you start taking photography seriously? Was there a definitive moment that you realized you could do this as a career?

At some point during my studies in fashion design I joined my dad on a trip to Kenya and Tanzania. He’s a wildlife photographer and I have joined him on many of his trips, but this time I tried to sell my photographs when I returned to Copenhagen. I ended up selling all my images and I got a kick out of it. I thought, “maybe this is actually possible”. Another turning point was when I dropped out of high school because I was accepted to the highly acclaimed art school ‘Fatamorgana’ in Copenhagen.

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What are you influenced most by at the moment?

At the moment I’m extremely interested in how we as humans can challenge and trick our mindset into new ways of perceiving the world through philosophy, remedies, art and science. What we see and experience is covered by everything we’ve experienced through our lives. This is why I love working as a photographer, through this medium I can play and create illusions, I can trick myself and others into journeys of discovery and hopefully plant a fragment of playfulness and adventurous zest in the mind of my viewers.

Previously you’ve stated that you are interested by the idea of being transgender. When was this topic something you became influenced by?

Being transgender is, in my opinion, a special approach to life which I can only admire. I believe it takes a lot of personal courage to understand our gender and to distinguish from the sex we were assigned at birth. Our gender is shaped and coloured by our surroundings and underlying rules of society, but obviously not entirely. There are biological differences between men and women we cannot avoid and this might be the core of my fascination. What makes a woman and what makes a man?

Do you prefer to get to know your subjects before photographing them or catch them in a moment?

Every single human being is different and every shooting is different. I enjoy photographing people I’ve just met as much as photographing my boyfriend and best friends. When I shoot someone for the first time I explore their opinions and self-image through the lens, something I find extremely intriguing. Turning my camera towards somebody is like turning the person’s own gaze towards him or her self. It reveals their inner self-awareness and I find it fascinating to get to know people by capturing the emotions created between us, whether it’ll be ecstasy or despair. When I photograph someone I know well I still feel I explore a new side of them and that our relation deepens.

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You’ve photographed some very influential people in fashion. What is one story or moment that you can never forget?

When I was 17 years old I contacted the American, Paris-based fashion critic and founder of ASVOFF and asked her if I could interview her for the Danish publication Dry Magazine. She answered my email in an hour and asked me to meet her in Paris in her favourite café a few days later. I remember I was literally shaking while waiting for her in the busy café among the fashionable Parisians. The moment she arrived I loosened up. Her deep voice, the intense eau de parfum and her endless stories of her life in New York and Paris working in the fields of design, fashion, film and music hit me right in the core of my body and we ended up chatting for more than three hours. She placed a little seed in me which gave me the confidence to keep on working and believing in what I do. Now and then I turn to this interview and read it to remind myself that nobody said it would be easy.

Since moving to Berlin from Copenhagen how has your style in photography changed? Do you feel this is for the better? 

My style of photography changed drastically since I moved to Berlin. One side of it is the fact that I was suddenly exposed to personalities and ways of living I had no idea existed before I moved out of the safe, little cage that is Copenhagen. Another part of it is the fact that I moved there alone right after my 18th birthday only knowing two people in the city. It forced to me to actively make an effort to build a social network I could rely on. Bottom line is I would never have developed my personal, visual voice in the same way without the move to Berlin.

Is Berlin a city where you can see yourself spending a long period of your life? 

I recently moved to Oslo, Norway and regard my time as a rollercoaster citizen of Berlin to be over. Berlin is a city of joy and self-exploration, a city of immense creativity and innovation in arts, music, fashion, design and architecture which will always be a great source of inspiration to me. Oslo is inspiring in many ways too and even though it is relatively closer mentally and lifestyle-wise to my hometown, Copenhagen, I still find it quite exotic.

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What is your favourite spot to spend a summer afternoon in Berlin?
In Schlesischer Busch surrounded by my loved ones drinking 2 € beers or on the rooftop of Soho House.

If you were to move to another city where would it be?

Somewhere where I can ride horses, drink my coffee with bare legs in the sun every morning, paint and photograph people in my massive daylight-studio facing the sea. Melbourne maybe. I’ve never been but I imagine it to be the ideal setting for an urban, active and simultaneously laid-back lifestyle.

By Caitlin Hennessy 

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