Author: Jan Khür
Photographer:Christian Lycke

Christian Lycke

Hi Christian, could you please shortly introduce yourself?

Hi! I’m from Oslo-ish, born in Toronto. I’ve spent most of my time in or around Oslo. I’ve spent way too long lazing my way through a BA in aesthetics at the Uni of Oslo and now I’m studying landscape architecture. I’m 27 at the moment.

Your work is a collection of portraits mostly of young people around your age photographed in the atmospheric landscapes of nature and towns. Do you mostly photograph people who are close to you or is it random people with no closer connection?

A bit of both. I’ve had a few different phases. I used to be into fashion photography, and then I started feeling like fashion was pretty gross. The stuff that looks like fashion is mostly models from agencies, and the rest is friends and maybe a few bands. I don’t really take pictures of strangers on the street very often. Usually they have their backs turned if I do.

As in the works of Gregory Crewdson or Cindy Sherman I have got this feeling from many of your pictures as if they are a single frame from a movie. They are not just portraits but its narrative goes behind the picture in the viewers mind. Are these true stories which really happened or do you just place your models into situations you would like to photograph?

That’s nice to hear! I like to give pictures a sense of lived-in-ness if I can, that it feels like there’s something going on, not just me telling someone to go stand by a thing. Usually, though, that is exactly what I’m doing, and then I wait until the subject is not paying attention, or uncertain of what to do. Mostly because I’m terrible at giving directions, so I just don’t even try. Sometimes it works.

First time I saw your work I immediately related its light atmosphere to movies as Spring Breakers or Only God Forgives etc.. It’s like if many of the pictures was taken in light of night Bangkok with just neon lightning the scenes. Where does this visuality come from and what inspires you?

Oh cool, yeah, I’m as big of a sucker for neon lights as everyone else. It makes everything colorful, so it’s pretty natural to want to photograph it. I guess I first saw that kind of lighting in movies from the 70s. I try to not get too inspired by anything specific if I have something I want to photograph, but of course all kinds of things have formed my visual preferences. I’ve liked a lot of different photographers and DOPs/directors, but Kubrick (R.I.P. brah) and Paul Thomas Anderson are still the big faves. I wish I could do stuff like that, just, you know - different. So moving images is kind of the end goal. But it seems far away.

You’re not photographing in just one place, more the opposite, your pictures seems to be from all around the world. Does it play a big role for you where the picture was taken or is it not important for you to define the place? Do you combine pictures in a way that they tell a new story, independently on the original one?

I look for nice settings, that seem a bit out of the ordinary. I don’t like studio work, I like surroundings that inform in some sense. I’ve become interested in taking more informative pictures, lately. But I have to say that I think about this after I’ve already taken the pictures, I don’t really think a lot when I’m working. I just go “ooh, pretty!” and point my camera. I disagree with a lot of people, because I think the equipment is really important. I have a hard time working digitally, my pictures seem flimsier and kind of dull when I use a digital camera. I’m trying to work out a different language for my digital stuff, because I don’t want to be a one trick pony. I got a bit off track - place matters, but equipment matters just as much, is what I was trying to say. To answer the last part: it depends. If I make a story (which I haven’t done in awhile) I usually storyboard things a bit, so that I have a general idea for each picture, and scout locations in advance. They have to work on their own, but also as a group.

What Is the gear you’re using, you said you’re trying to separate your work on analog and digital?

I use a Mamiya RZ67 Pro II and a Fuji GW690. My digital is a Sony Alpha 7R with a new 35mm Zeiss lens, and some old lenses with adaptors.

I know this one is tough one, but what does it mean to you to photograph? What keeps you going?

I’m not really sure. I guess I feel like I do a decent job of it, and I don’t have a lot of other talents. That sounds depressing, Plus, I’m not hurting anyone by taking pictures, not producing lots of waste, it’s immaterial in a way. Unless you buy new expensive digital cameras all the time, but that’s not an option for me, because I’m broke most of the time. ¯_(ツ)_/¯

I first came across your work through Lindley Warren’s project “The Photographic Dictionary”. Is it the way you’re presenting your photographs?  Becoming part of the contemporary photo scene  through blogs and project submissions? Do you like to present your work in some other forms than online?

Not really. I’ve only ever been on blogs that have asked me, I think. I’m not really very visible online. I’d like to work as a photojournalist, which is hella hard right now. Newspapers aren’t exactly screaming for new photographers. I like books and zines, but I had an exhibition once, and I’m not doing that again. I get nervous if I’m the center of attention. Plus I got really drunk and my mom brought a lot of her friends and grandma. It’s an awkward memory.

By using this project to map out different artists and practitioners, we are trying to explore what contemporary Norwegian photography is. Does this term mean anything to you?

I don’t really follow the scene. Seems like there used to be back in the 90s/early 00s, but now I’d say that there are a lot of people doing different things that don’t intersect that much. I’m the wrong person to ask, though.

Do you think there is something lacking in the Norwegian photography scene today?

Maybe a sense of purpose. I’m definitely lacking one.

What role do you think photography is playing in Norwegian society?

I don’t really know, but commercial photographers should be more aware of what they’re selling. Fashion people, too. There are a lot ideals that aren’t upheld, because dollah dollah billz ya’ll. I wish all the photojournalists weren’t being fired or phased out, because there are too many shitty scanpix (stock agency) photos in printed news these days.

Is it possible to make a living as freelance photographer in Norway or you have to support photography and yourself  from other foundings?

Yeah, I know people who get by, but you usually have to do a lot of commercial work. I’d rather have another part time job and not have to do that.

Do you think there is enough possibilities in Norway for photographers to present their work ? Is there a  public for it or it’s more important to be more active abroad?

I don’t know. Personally I like to be given instructions, so I’d prefer to work for a newspaper or magazines - to have a lot of variation and try to be informative somehow. There are a lot of galleries in Oslo (most of them are pretty crummy), but I think that artists should be able to create their own following. If you can’t generate an interest in the work, then that might be saying something about the art.  

Can you please name one or more photographers you think are important for Norwegian photography of today?

I like Torbjørn Rødland, Christian Belgaux and Erik Mowinckel.