Maren Klemp

Maren Klemp is an artist from Oslo, Norway. Klemp's deeply emotive images incorporate the magic of the Scandinavian landscape, using both herself and her children as her subjects.

In your artist statement you mention that your work is "a plunge into the darker sides of the human mind." How did this theme in your work come about and how has it developed throughout your practice?

Well, ever since I was a child I have seen great beauty in dark art and literature. I had a passion for writing poetry and short stories when I was younger, and my writing was quite dark as well. When I started photography it felt natural to continue on the same path. My images are products of my thoughts, so I guess that my mind is quite dark.

The subjects in your photographs consist of yourself and your children. Has this been a conscious decision to focus on your family?

Yes! My experience is that working with self portraiture and close family gives me full control over the creative process. it is not that I enjoy seeing my face in pictures so much, but I find it much easier to convey the meaning behind the picture by using myself as a model. The children looks wonderful in front of the camera, and they know exactly what I want them to do, so I feel that we have made many of my images together. Another good reason to do self portraiture is that you are always available for shoots!

You've often mentioned that your work aims to raise awareness and create a dialogue around mental health. How have your own experiences (if any) played into the images that you create?

Yes, I have. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder a couple of years ago, and it really brought the pieces together for me. I decided to be totally open about it, and to photograph my experiences with mental illness. This resulted in my first solo-exhibition called "The Veil Of Fog" here in Oslo.

What is your favourite photograph that you’ve taken and why?

My favorite photograph these days is called "The Bird Tamer". This picture really calms me down, and I have had so much positive feedback on it from people saying that they experience peace by looking at it. The picture shows a woman setting a bird free from captivity, and I think that brings out strong feelings in people.

The Bird Tamer
The Bird Tamer

What is your creative process like? How do you get from an idea to the final image?

I have a rule that I always follow, and that is to never pick up my camera unless I know exactly how I want the photograph to look like. First I draw sketches and makes notes of props, location, settings and so on. By planning the image that carefully, the shoot itself does not take that long. I can spend several hours on post processing just to make sure that I haven't missed anything.

In a lot of your self-portraits you’re photographed with your eyes closed. Is this a conscious decision?

Yes. For some reason I find it hard to stare straight into the camera, and I think that is because I reveal so much about myself and my own disease through my images. I feel naked with my eyes open, and I feel much more comfortable with my eyes closed.

Your work often feels like a continuous flow, not broken into projects as some photographers work. How do you view your work and each image that you create?

I found my own voice and style quite early in my career, and I have always stayed true to that voice. The images just pops up in my head, and I get a strong urge to create them. I try not to think too much when I create, I just follow my mind and work with what it gives me. Although it is important to me that the pictures conveys the right mood and emotions that I had when I created them.

Could you talk us through your collaborative book Between Intervals with Jose Escobar?

In late 2013 I met Jose' on Flickr, and we instantly felt that our work "spoke the same language", and that we decided to collaborate on a book project. The theme of the book is bipolar disorder, and by putting Jose's landscape photographs together with my portraits was interesting, and made me realize how strong the connection between nature and the human mind is. Nature has played a huge part in my work since my collaboration with Jose'. This is how we describe out book:

Between Intervals, is a joint effort of two photographers across an ocean, is a sequence of images visually depicting scenes, objects and portraits of people as found at the edge, an event horizon, right at the moment of coming in or coming out, emerging and entering, sometimes trapped, with a feeling of isolation from others and the rest of the world.
Decay and darkness, overgrown vegetation spreading through doors and window, lonely scenes, places crumbling and figures which are merely silhouettes and blurs, other looking intently into empty space, are images often used to describe such experiences by those afflicted with this disorder.

They even get the sensation at times of being inside an organic membrane from which it is difficult to emerge. Many times they feel they have been marked by the grip of darkness, touched by a sense of sadness, of not belonging, of living inside a world where few can enter and understand. This is what "Between Intervals explores and dives into."

What's next for you?

My plan is to make another book, travel in order to gain more inspiration, and build on my portfolio.

Rossella Castello

Rosella Castello is an Italian artist currently in her last year of studies in Photographic Arts at University of Westminster. In her work Careful Dissipation Rossella looks at the experiences and difficulties of living with eating disorders.

In your work Careful Dissipation you look at what it's like to live with anorexia. Can you explain a little about how this work came about from your own personal experiences and how living with the condition translated into the work?

My project Careful Dissipation is about eating disorders, in particular anorexia and bulimia. I have to admit that I have never suffered directly from anorexia or bulimia, but I suffered for a while from general eating disorders. I was absolutely sure that food and everything related to the idea of eating was damaging my body, and that was making me feel sick every day. Therefore, I started avoiding eating too much, limiting myself only to a little amount of food. I was having only a little bit for three days in a row. At the fourth day, I was starving. Thus, I was stuffing myself until I was feeling sick, since my body was not used to taking that big amount of food anymore. The following day, I was avoiding eating again, thinking that the food itself was what made me feeling sick.

Years later I decided I wanted to translate into an artistic work what might be the difficult conditions of living with an eating disorder. I decided to exaggerate them, translating them into a proper physical installation in order to make the viewers experience some certain feelings. I did not want to show directly what it means to live with anorexia or bulimia, like showing images of bodies as we are used to see in visual media, but I wanted to use a more subtle way to communicate the same meaning.

The room installation created for Careful Dissipation is small, borderline claustrophobic even. What was your intention for the viewers experience?

The description you gave about the room is absolutely complete. My intention was to create a narrowed and claustrophobic space where the viewers could feel uncomfortable, surrounded only by the red colour that does not make feel them at ease. When someone is experiencing a mental health problem, in this case an eating disorder, they feel like their health condition is like a huge burden that is oppressing them.

Has making artwork about your eating disorder been therapeutic in any way. If so, how?

I have to admit that my eating disorder was already solved when I created this installation. At the beginning, my eating disorder was causing me personal and social problems and I did not want to deal with it or solve it. Once I understood that I completely overcame the disease, I was ready to translate my feelings into artwork. My art has been therapeutic since it has helped me to feel that I had completely overcame the disease, since I was ready to express it and make everyone aware of it.

How has it felt to share such personal work? What have responses to the work been like?

At the beginning, I did not want to admit that the installation was related to personal experiences. However, since my attempt was to make the public more aware about common diseases that are often underestimated, I thought that sharing this artwork with the public would have been really constructive both for me and my viewers. In fact, the responses were positive, and most of the viewers were surprised by the visual strategies I used in order to make the public aware of this disorder.

How do you see your practice evolving? What inspires you and what are you working on now?

In terms of future projects, I would love to keep creating artworks related to mental health.

I am currently working on my final major project for my last year at university. The idea beyond it was born when I started noticing how the tendency to document wars, mental illness, poverty, crime (negative facts in general) etc. is always more popular in photography. I decided I wanted to show that shocking images are not extremely necessary in visual media to make the public aware of the current problems. I often consider some images really intense just because the subjects are powerful themselves. Portraying someone who has a disease makes an image strong enough to achieve viewers’ feelings and make them reflecting. However, I think that using allegories or other visual strategies would be a more subtle way to influence the viewers. Since I am still working on it, I will stop myself from revealing too much.

Celine Marchbank

Celine Marchbank is a documentary, editorial & commercial photographer specialising in British based stories, fascinated by the small everyday details of life. Based in London, she spends her time between personal documentary projects, exhibiting work regularly, and undertaking commercial and editorial work. She is also a regular sessional lecturer in documentary photography on the BA (Hons) Digital Photography course at Ravensbourne University in London.

In her project Tulip, Marchbank documents the final year of her mother's life and battle with lung cancer and a brain tumour.

What role did photography play in coming to terms with your mother's death?

I think at first it didn’t feel like it played a part at all. The year she was ill was the most complex year of my life. Whist I was going through that, especially at the start, I didn’t feel like I came to terms with the fact she was dying at all. I struggled to reason with myself why I had introduced a camera to this unbearable situation, but as the weeks went on, and especially after the terminal diagnosis I could see why I had chosen to use photography to remember my mum. These were our last moments together, and in a way I wasn’t experiencing them then. When you care for someone who’s dying, you don’t get the chance or space to really think, you are so in that moment of unbearable shock and numbness that the little things slide. All that was important was mum, but the camera allowed me just a couple of split seconds a day to record the things that would go on to mean so much to me, the little things that would be gone.

I think after her death the photography has helped more, when I look through Tulip now it’s like a time capsule, it takes me right back to that moment, but it’s not an as painful one anymore, the project helped me process the emotions, and all the photography I’ve done since her death has really helped me through the longs years of grieving.

My Mother's favourite flower.

How did your mother feel about being photographed at this sensitive time in her life?

She actively wanted to do the project, we spoke about it lots first, she was actually excited by it. I was her full-time carer, and I think she always felt guilty about how hard it was for me, and in a way this might have been her way of trying to give something back. Though that wasn’t the reason for the project, or the way I saw it as such. She kept saying I will look at it all when I’m better. It kind of gave her something to get better for.

Mum would ask me what I wanted to photograph some days, we would chat about it. Mostly I didn’t know, I don’t like to plan things to photograph, I just like to wait till I spot something that means something or a little moment that might not happen again. I think mum liked this, it meant we just spent lots of time together, chatting and drinking tea in bed. It was nice, I really miss that time.

All mum felt like eating today.

Do you think photography brought you closer together?

In a way yes. We had a very similar taste in art, and I think we did in photography too. She loved my images, and would look at them lots. Though she didn’t want to look at any of the Tulip project until it was finished. I don’t think mum ever came to terms with the fact she was dying, she never spoke about it, but I think her allowing me to photograph her was her way of admitting it was happening. So in that way it brought us closer, and the project itself allowed for us to spend lots of time together, so that was the perhaps the most meaningful part.

My Mum has the most amazing blue eyes.

As her mobility declines Mum stays in her room more and more. Her windowsill becomes a substitute for the garden.

The use of flowers as a metaphor for both life and death is very poignant. Is this something you were aware of at the beginning or something that became apparent as the project developed?

It was not something I was straight away aware of. I photographed everything in the house repetitively, not always realising why, I just had this need to record it all. It wasn’t until later on when I started to show the work to other photographers that they started pointing out all the repetition of things and how together they told a story. Flowers were so important to mum, she had new ones every other day. I started to see them then as such a metaphor of what was happening, and then couldn’t stop photographing them.

The garden chairs she never got to use.
Mum insists the hallway light is kept on all night. When she’s in hospital my brother turns it off, and it reminds me of what it might be like without her.

Tell us a little bit about Tulip, the book, and how people can support it coming to fruition.

Tulip, the book, is a very personal story, but since making the project public it’s the response I’ve received that has made me want to publish the book. So many people have been through the same thing, and it’s nice to think the story can be seen by more people.

The book will be published by Dewi Lewis, but only if I can raise enough of the funding with my Kickstarter campaign. I’ve been so touched by how the campaign has been received so far. So many kind and generous people have backed the project. We are over 85% of the way there, but need to hit 100% for the book to happen.

If you would like to be involved in the success of this book, then please take a look at the campaign and also please share around with people. The deadline is this Friday 13th at 3pm. I would love as many people as possible to support the project.

Mum never really asks for help, in fact she refuses it. She was determined to do as much for herself as possible, and never lets on how hard it is for her.
I worry looking at her empty bed, will she ever return from the hospice.

I imagine there a lot of images that didn't make it into the book. What was the editing process like?

There are thousands of images that didn’t make the book. I started editing the project just a few weeks after my mum’s death, it was a cathartic experience, but sometimes very hard, especially looking at the images of my mum in pain. I decided that was not the type of book I wanted to make, there was no need to see these images, that was not what I wanted to remember my mum by and they were not representative of her life. I wanted the beautiful moments we had shared, along with the very distinctive things she had to be the focus, that was what made her her.

Last night we were told Mum only has a week to live. Today I looked at the tomatoes we planted together and wondered will she ever see them ripen?

What are you working on now?

I’m actually working on another project about my mother. She was a well-known chef, and one of the things we did when she was ill was teach me her recipes. After she died and started to clear out her house I found a whole load of her recipes and old menus from her numerous restaurants.

I’m doing a book that is a mixture of me retracing her life, along with learning her recipes and cooking her food. I think the food will flow through the book in a similar way the flowers did in Tulip.

I’ve spent the last 5 years working on it, whilst I suffered through grief, so the book will reflect my journey through grief also, showing my moods, emotions and feelings through these hard past years.

I have thousands of images again, but have not started to edit it yet. I’m looking forward to dedicating sometime to do this soon, and hope to have the book ready to publish next year.

You can support Celine's Kickstarter to publish Tulip here.