Culture / Interview

“I Felt Too Shy to Show my Paintings”: Trine Søndergaard in Conversation

Trine Søngergaard

Danish photographer TRINE SØNDERGAARD grew up in northern Jutland. Abandoning painting, she moved to photographer, creating images reminiscent of the work of the late 19th-century Danish painter Vilhelm Hammershøi…

What do we see in your work?

My work often revolves around existential questions that are in equal part personal and universal. My work explores what it means to be human, and I use images to communicate ideas or feelings. My work explores both specific and personal emotions, but also more general phenomena. They’re often initiated by something personal. It has become a way of working through things that I am struggling with or are simply curious about. This personal angle is what motivates my approach, which is also an overall exploration of historical, cultural and gender related questions.

Your photographs remind me of Dutch Golden Age paintings (perhaps that’s a strange comparison). What movements have you taken into account designing the aesthetic?

There are no movements I’ve consciously taken. I work intuitively and very photographically. I use the framework I’m given, and this serves as my concept. I rarely bring additional equipment, but use the natural light of the space. It’s not the first time I’ve been told my work has qualities of the Dutch Golden Age. It might be the natural light that creates this image.

How does your work stand out as Nordic?

I don’t know if it does. But what I do know is that I take my starting point in what’s around me – and my geographical starting point is the Nordics, as I am based in Denmark. I’m originally from the countryside of northern Jutland, and that perhaps comes across in my work. Both the geographical and human landscapes stem from my hometown. But I don’t aim to make particularly Nordic images, instead I work with what’s close to me.

I’m particularly interested in the use of costume in your pictures…tell me a bit about that.

The use of textiles began when I was working on the project ‘Strude’. Here, I photographed women wearing the local dress of the island of Fanø. The project was quite documentary, but it was the combination of past and present that I found interesting. Following this project, I sought out this approach more actively. What has also been particularly interesting is how textiles and clothes become carriers of culture and representatives of a time. In my images the historical clothes carry different codes, which tell us something about the identity and societal position of the women wearing them. It also says something about how we as spectators read images, and about whether we are even capable of decoding them. There are so many hidden meanings, which is something that I’m fascinated by. The clothes are rich in their encoding and at the same time they lie in oblivion. Working with the clothes and costumes frees them from this oblivion by shedding light on them and connecting them with life today. In that way, I consider the costumes a material or a tool in the process of creating images with a visual meaning.

Did you always want to become a photographer?

I originally wanted to be a painter, but started photographing because I felt too shy to show my paintings. The transition into photography was in many ways quite organic…I already had a camera. It turned out that photography suited me well, and it became an excuse to go out into the world. I’ve also always been interested in the notion of reality and how it seems that we experience it so differently. Photography has the ability to show my reality or your reality. It’s a direct channel to our different personal impetuses.

TRINE SØNDERGAARD is a Danish photographer.

This article has also been published in Nordic Style Magazine.

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