‘I’ve wanted to play with identity all my life’ – Oslo-based photographer Maria Pasenau shares photos from her first book, Whit Kind Regrets Pasenau
Maria Pasenau’s crowdfunded first book, Whit Kind Regrets Pasenau, began as a photo diary, when the Norwegian photographer started to take her camera everywhere after moving to Oslo at the age of 20. “I’m scared of forgetting things – that’s why I take pictures. The good, the bad, everything,” says Pasenau, and the book acts like a physical window into her process. The photos are an unflinching document, depicting her own and her friends’ coming of age, from first loves to experimenting with physical appearance. Here, she describes the project in her own words.
Maria Pasenau: “I’m scared of forgetting things – that’s why I take pictures. The good, the bad, everything, so I can see how it was at that time. For me, it’s about the moment. During the three years that I was taking photos for my first book, Whit Kind Regrets Pasenau, there were ups and downs, as there are in life.
“The photos were all taken in Oslo, after I moved here from Trondheim (where I’d been studying at the Norwegian School of Photography) at the age of 20. There was so much more happening in Oslo. I always had a camera with me and I took photos anywhere, anytime. I took all the photographs on one camera, an Olympus MJU II – I have, like, five of them. I took pictures of people I know: me, my boyfriend, and writer and editor Elise By Olsen. Everyone who features in Whit Kind Regrets Pasenau has taken it well. I think everyone is happy to get a perspective of those years. It was more than just my life, it was the lives of my friends. It’s funny, because many of the pictures could have been taken in the 1990s or this year, but it’s not about time, it’s about culture.
“I have always experimented with identity: if something happens in my life, I want to celebrate it by dyeing my hair or buying new clothes. You can see the passage of time in the photographs from the colour of my hair. One time I coloured my hair black. The next day I was stopped by the police for tagging in the street. So then I knew it wasn’t good to keep my hair that colour. I’ve wanted to play with identity all my life. It’s always been like that for me.
“From when I began taking self-portraits, I knew what I wanted the images to look like. It was easier to just take a picture of myself so I didn’t have to explain my weird ideas to someone else. I like to work alone. It’s been a long process to feel comfortable photographing myself naked. The first time I was naked in front of a camera was when I was in school. I felt so ashamed. But then I did it more because I thought I should try it again. So I experimented with taking pictures of myself naked, and with other people taking pictures of me. Then I felt confident and now I don’t feel bad. It’s better to see photos like the pictures of me naked in the book than porn. It’s real. When you’re a child, you can be naked and free, but when you reach puberty, you learn to be ashamed of your body. Now I just want to be like that naked child again.
“Instagram is not my art world. It’s just my Instagram, much like everyone else’s. I want my pictures on a wall, not on Instagram. I want to be more in the world, not scrolling through a screen. I have a strong feeling I have so little time, so I have to use it carefully. I could die at any time. And I want to have my voice out there. Because if I die and my work goes into a box... Well, that’s the worst thing I can imagine.”