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Asger Carlsen

With the release of Hester, we caught up with the artist and Dazed contributor to discuss sculptural nudes

The body, but not as you know it. Rearranged and transformed, the initial impact of Asger's images are surprising. At once recognisable as human, but simultaneously as strange, the contorted bodies, with no face, are made using Photoshop. Like Escher's impossible staircase, Asger Carlsen creates impossible bodies, which take on more sculptural qualities. Asger continues to surprise and confuse us by questioning the format and usefulness of the photograph itself. When presented with these edited images, what you struggle with the most is that the joining of the two worlds, of documentary photography and creative sculpture, are so seamlessly blended, that it's impossible to see the divide. Already a contributor to Dazed & Confused, his latest book Hester is a series of photos, which captures these ambiguous, sculptural bodies. In Asger's hands, his photos have the malleability of clay, and we caught up with him to find out more about his studio process and latest works...  

Where do you depart from Wrong with your new book Hester?

The new work is more sculptural. It’s more like photographs of an installation, rather than the focus being obviously on the photographs themselves. They focus is the photographs, but uses the idea that maybe an installation had been set up in my studio – and someone came to photograph them.

When did you first start taking photographs?

I guess I started when I first got out of High School. I was a newspaper photographer for 10 years, and that’s how I started it. I was interested in photography, but I was just drawn to the adventure of it. I wasn’t so sure of my style at that time, I mean I was too young to be aware of it, but I was drawn to it.

A lot of things happened between me being a newspaper photographer and what I’m doing now. In China I was also doing colourful assignments and I was also shooting for magazines. Of course what I’m doing now does have temporary roots in my time as a newspaper photographer for sure. I studied in a way that’s based on the way the photographs looked, to capture impulsive photos.

Was there a point where you began to focus on the manipulation of your photographs – using Photoshop?

I always felt, I guess, when I was doing straight up photography that I wanted to be more bold and creative. So I wanted to do more. It wasn’t enough. I was drawn to the idea that you could do something on top of the photograph. The way a photographer works, is you have to go out and run around, you have to capture your edge – maybe I like that, but I also wanted to do more than just that. I wanted to take my work to a place of 100% creativity. As a press photographer you can’t do that. You have to run around looking for this moment or that moment – seek it out in a way.

How would you describe your process?

I study forms, I follow sculptural artists, and at the same time I’m interested in what photographic material can do. I can do a lot of stuff with it but there are light issues, and numerous issues I have to take into consideration before I can take the photograph.

How did you start the project?

In the beginning, I was in the process of finishing my other book and I decided I wanted to do something sculptural. So I just had a bunch of files in my computer, and I’m looking at them, and all of sudden I’m getting something. This idea came to me that I wanted to do some kind of sculpture – or the idea of a sculpture. I already had these images from a girl I photographed, from something else, so I just worked with what I had. The project had to evolve – so I began to bring in black girls, and sometimes I photographed obese girls. It was more interesting to have a different texture, because there are more interesting layers, that a skinny person doesn’t have. It’s interesting to have a foundation to try this.

What would you consider your most successful image?

That’s hard to tell because some days I hate my work, other days I like it better. I’m so critical. I’m about to do an exhibition in January, in Berlin – a solo presentation – and for that I’m using some images from the Hester book. In that, there was this very sculptural, like piece of furniture or something – like a table – so that’s one of the last series that I did, and I’m really drawn to work on something like that. Hopefully I like all of them, but there’s images in Wrong which now I find, maybe, not so serious. But it’s evolution.

For me they are the most challenging expression. I consider that they are the most that I can get out of that material. For me that’s satisfying. I’m trying to make this not into photography, but an object, the idea of being an object.

What do you have planned for the future?

I’m not sure, but I’m noticing that I’m not thinking like a photographer anymore. I don’t follow photography culture and I'm not up to date on new camera equipment. I’m not drawn to it as a photographer. I’m more interested in creating something and it ends up somewhere. As long as it gives me that satisfaction. I have an idea and I don’t see any limitations of how I’m going to get there.

I’m just thinking about what to do in the future. So far I have the exhibition planned –  a show in Berlin, in January – at the Dittrich & Schlechtriem Gallery and a lot of my time will go into that.


Photography Francesco Nazardo