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.

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