Interview with Photographer Jo Bentdal

Interview with Photographer Jo Bentdal
Interview with Photographer Jo Bentdal

This interview features notable Photographer Jo Bentdal. He has a different yet interesting approach when it comes to photojournalism, and this is evident in his stunning images. Read on and find out more about his work, inspiration and ideologies.

We'd like to know more about you. Can you tell us more about yourself?

I am 42 and live in Oslo, Norway. I have a degree in physics, but have been working as a management consultant, a brand strategist and a design advisor before I turned to photography full time.

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When did your love for photography begin?

Its been emerging throughout my life. I had a darkroom in the basement when I was a kid. For many years it was just a hobby. Working in a design agency, and working with other photographers fueled the interest. After my wife died, I became more active in photography, and attending a workshop with Alex Webb in 2009 was a starting- point for a more "serious" approach. About a year ago I quit my job in the design-agency to do photography full time.

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What scenery/person you have captured would you say inspired you the most?

I have had sessions with very different people, ranging from Snoop Dogg and Will Smith to Magnus Carlsen (ranked the worlds nr.1 chessplayer), but I think shooting people that you get to spend time with and get to know on a personal level is the most inspiring. The pictures also tend to get better under such circumstances? So I guess the answer would be my wife or my current girlfriend. Among the "big names", Snoop was a highlight, as I have been into his music since 1993 or 1994, and he was fun and very nice to hang with.

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What tools of the trade do you use most often?

As I generally aim for pictures that have a "believable" feel, the tools I use are the basic ones: My cameras (Nikon D3s and a Leica M9). I also almost always do some adjustments to the pictures in post, but generally not much other that what you would do in a darkroom: adjusting exposure, dodge and burn, some selective sharpening, adjusting curves, stuff like that.

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Can you tell us more about your approach, documentary art photography? How does this approach influence your images?

I guess its about trying to keep it real, and at the same time allowing for individual and open interpretation. My aim is to take pictures that you would hang on your wall. Pictures that both aesthetically and content-wise are interesting and makes you think or feel something also after you have seen them many times. When using a documentary approach (available light, minimal staging etc.) I find that the pictures speak to me in a more direct way and have a more interesting impact. Avoiding artificial elements that either makes you focus on "how was that done?" or that is just plane annoying and feel fake. Of course: If done right, anything goes, but to me, one of the core strengths of photography as an art-form is that you can actually capture a moment in time. This approach leaves out total control over the motive. Its more about a partly conscious and partly subconscious interaction with the world around you. When all goes right the result can be more spontaneous, and -as the case is with the masters of the trade- more original than most of the meticulously planned staged scenarios turn out.

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Any tips in taking great photographs?

In the word of Alex Webb: Shoot what you are drawn to.

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Myanmar/Burma is a country rich in culture and tradition. What was your experience like in shooting this place?

I was there with Steve McCurry, who has been shooting there a lot. He took me to some good locations, and getting "pretty" images was not hard. The people are generally very nice, and not having been exposed to heavy tourism, they are authentic and positive when you approach them with the camera. That said, there are still clearly limitations to what you can do, say or shoot without repercussions.

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What message do you want to convey in your photographs?

The answer to that question is evolving. The most current version is: I hope to be able to make people reflect on the issue that the world is a complex array of different systems, institutions, cultures and individuals. All of which is directly or indirectly linked. All the elements are there for a reason. No single person, system or ideology holds all the answers. What you do with it, and how you define yourself into that matrix is (or should be) a matter of defining your own identity.

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Do you have any new projects that you're working on right now?

Im going back to Rio de Janeiro soon and have some ideas on what to pursue there, but what it turns out to be - I wont know exactly until its done. I am also continuing work on a series about Individual Identity vs. Institutions.

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Any advice for our readers?

Do your thing!

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