Esben Bøg Jensen is one of the most talented photographers producing amazingly beautiful photos using film. The wonderful light and glow visible in his shots can make digital users envious of his skills in handling of this medium. Through his photography, Esben makes his subjects more lovely and landscapes more enchanting. He’s such a photographer who is never formulaic and has the ability to inspire budding amateurs to take up film and develop a sheer vision for creating astoundingly beautiful images. Esben is a thorough scholar and his views and appreciation of art has impressed us a lot… he’s truly a thinking hat! Here’s our comprehensive interview of Esben:
I was born in a small city in Denmark by the name of Odense, but I lived and went through all of elementary- and high school in an even smaller town in the countryside called Søndersø. Don’t even think about trying to pronounce the name right. Now I study in the capital, Copenhagen, where I attend university. I study Modern Culture – a master’s degree basically combining literature and art.
I’m currently finishing my thesis, which has been one hell of a ride. I’m glad to be done soon. I don’t know about hobbies. Besides doing photography I love books, movies and music. Music probably plays a greater role in my life than photography. Though I can’t play a single note. I just listen.
I started doing photography when I was about 22 years old. Since then it’s simply always been around. I guess because I’ve always had a camera handy if the chance for a great photo should arise.
I don’t know if I’d consider myself an amateur photographer anymore. I have made a business of it, but it’s not something that really pays the rent. Yet! Luckily for me my photography is very much a diary of my life. So by simply having a camera around there is not much more I need to do. So it’s easy to balance it with everything else.
I’d like to think that photography, like all great art, is challenging the idea of our own mortality. Photography has the ability to freeze time and capture a moment that suddenly gives life meaning. The perfect photograph to me is one of synchronicity. You don’t look at a photo like that with a longing nostalgia for what once was, which some might be inclined to think, but as a reminder of just how beautiful life can be. Photos like these are rare and only come along once in a blue moon, but they make it worthwhile for any photographer. Usually you don’t even know you’ve captured a moment like it before the film is developed and you hold the photo in front of you. And I love this hunt for that single photo that just makes you feel alive.
Photography has made me aware of my surrounding’s and made me embrace most things with an openness and curiosity I can’t imagine living without. And that’s what good art is supposed to do. It’s supposed to, if not question the very meanings of existence, then at least make sure that we look as deep as we can and get the most of it.
Unfortunately art these days seems to be more about being clever and intelligent. Art has become another comment on politics, religion, about society or perhaps art itself. But it gives us nothing in terms of looking inward - in terms of looking for something greater than the obvious and tangible world around us. That’s what I want my photography to do. That, to me, is what great art is. It is supposed to bring us certain transcendence.
I love it when things are beautiful through and through - when art has aesthetics. I see a lot of art with a great concept, but in my eyes, horrible execution. I wanted a more hands on workflow that was closer to that of painting or sculpturing. And that’s why I started working with film. It’s harder to make something beautiful when you shoot film, simply because you can’t lie. Over photo-shopping a film photo is like sacrilege. In that way film is way more rewarding to you and to the people looking. What they see is about as close to an aesthetic truth as you can get. I work in digital as well though. But that’s more if I’m shooting for a client. Don’t think I hate digital though – a great photo is a great photo. And digital is just so much easier and cheaper that there has been several times when I was about to drop film and just go digital. Sometimes being stubborn is a good thing I guess.
I usually shoot with my Canon 1v, but I also own and love a Hasselblad 500CM, a Bessa R3A and a Canon AE-1. When going digital I use a brand new Canon 6D. That camera set me back money wise to somewhere near the Middle Ages. The good thing about the Canon cameras is that I can use the same lenses for both.
I get questions about what camera I use all the time and what kind of film I prefer, but if anything I’ve come to learn, and it’s an old cliché, that gear is not the most important thing. When it comes to shooting film it makes sense to be picky. But where you get the film developed and how you scan it, if you do so, is something it makes much more sense to do proper research on.
I usually ask people to turn a certain way or perhaps take a few steps into the light, but for the most part everything comes naturally. I think the thing I care the most about is location. And that’s always kind of a win-win situation. A trip to somewhere special is always nice, and if you bring a couple of beers or a thermal beverage dispenser filled with coffee you can’t help but have a great time - even if you don’t get any good shots.
I never really think of a certain scenario or story I want to shoot. Though when I think about I probably should start doing that…
I tell you my view on art instead because I consider photography to be an art form like any other. The world of art today is ruled by one thing - money. Museums are no longer able to play a larger role in today’s art market because auction-houses have slowly put themselves in place as the new authorities of the latest tendency. And art history has become to be more and more about the money. Apparently the price tag determines what good art is. This worrying scenario is helped by a large group of celebrities, who contaminates our direct experience and perception of the art world. I believe that most people can see certain logic in this, and won’t think that I’m simply driven by a crazy nostalgia. The point is not to strip artists the right of making money of their art. Instead the point is that this more and more superficial art world has lost everything that was once it’s strongest force. It has become deprived of its original elements.
Today art appreciation is about swapping thoughts and ideas on the latest theories and it has almost entirely lost its connection with the world of the senses. That is how the before mentioned concept of synchronicity in art has vanished and been substituted by a sense of separation. If art is about no more than smart theories by artists who wish to highlight their own intellect, suddenly the only thing used when looking at art is rational intelligence. Very often we are presented with art that is clever and crafty. It says something about society and perhaps art itself. But it gives us nothing in terms of looking inward - in terms of looking for something greater than the obvious and tangible world around me. And that’s what I really want to do with photography.
I don’t really have any opinion about selfies. The phenomenon is still so new, but I see about as many negatives as positives about it. Perhaps a few more negatives actually. The narcissistic aspect of any selfie seems hard to dismiss. I don’t mind that more people pick up the camera though because of it though. I think site like Tumblr and Pinterst has made a whole new generation more curious about photography. And that’s just amazing.
Copenhagen is great. I’ve been to many places, but I always love touching down again in Copenhagen. It definitely feels like home. And we have about three months of really good summer weather each year that just makes Copenhagen the only place to be.
As mentioned before photography has definitely opened my eyes more to the world around me. And there are many great places in Copenhagen to do photography. Unfortunately our weather here can be very challenging. It changes very quickly and usually to rain…
Tell us about the artists and photographer who inspire you:
I have many favourite photographers. Then one I would mention here would be Sally Mann. She is just wonderful. Movies and music would be the primary inspiration I think. When it comes to music no one quiet dose it for me like Tom Waits. And when it comes to movies I’ve been getting into Andrei Tarkovsky lately. Especially his movie ‘Stalker’ has been a huge inspiration for me. It is hereby recommended to everyone.