Per Bak Jensen Interview: The Presence of the Absent



We met Danish photographer Per Bak Jensen for a talk about desirable ‘hidden things’, and how photographing the world helps him understand it – and himself: “I can’t describe it in words. So instead I’ve chosen to photograph it.”

“Sometimes I feel that there’s more than I can see. There’s something hidden in my surroundings when I’m looking around.” The ‘hidden things’ Jensen talks about arouses a longing within him that he feels might be an expression of reminiscence: “The landscape gives people back something that they’ve forgotten.” To Jensen, the landscape contains a primordial part of human beings, and finding the latter hard to deal with, it is the landscape that plays a central role in his stunning pictures, which have an almost metaphysical dimension. We are introduced to the solitude of the empty field, the vast ocean, the uninhabited landscape – no people: “I find people problematic. They’re much harder to be around and to deal with.”

Attentiveness to light and to the different speed in the world are elements that are present in Jensen’s oeuvre: “I have to find a speed that fits the rock. The rock would never be able to adjust to my speed – because I dash about.” He thus attempts to capture not only a certain speed but also a form of understanding of himself though the meeting with the empty landscape. This, essentially, is what Jensen feels that art has the ability to do – to make us understand and define our role in the world through our gaze at it.

Per Bak Jensen (b. 1949) is one of Denmark’s leading photographers and a pioneer of modern landscape photography, known for his desolate images of nature or industrial sites. He studied at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts (1980-1986) and was the first graduate to use photography as his only art form. Selected exhibitions include ‘Projekt Højbanen’ at Nørrebro Station, Copenhagen (1990), ‘Amagerbilleder’ at Traneudstilling Gentofte Kunstbibliotek, Gentofte (1991), ‘Stedernes Væsen’ at Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk (1993), ‘New Zealand’ at Sarjeant Gallery, New Zealand (1998), ‘Per Bak Jensen’ at Galleri Niklas von Bartha, London (2001) and ‘Per Bak Jensen: Skjult’ at Sorø Kunstmuseum, Sorø (2015). His photographs are on display at museums such as Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris.

Per Bak Jensen was interviewed by Marc-Christoph Wagner in connection to his exhibition ‘Per Bak Jensen: Skjult’ at Sorø Kunstmuseum, Denmark in February 2015.

Camera: Jakob Solbakken
Edited by: Kamilla Bruus
Produced by: Marc-Christoph Wagner
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2015

Supported by Nordea-fonden

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