Interview with Steen Doessing
#1 Please introduce yourself:
My name is Steen Doessing. I was born and grew up in Denmark. I moved to England in 1980 and settled in The Thames Valley where I’m now living with my Family.
#2 How did you get interested in photography?
When I was 12, my father gave me an old Agfa 120 box camera. My uncle was a keen amateur photographer using Leica and he taught me all the basics including developing my films and printing them in his darkroom and that was it – I was hooked. I bought my first 35mm camera when I was 18 I think and moved through several makes and models in years to come. During this time I became aware of Ansell Adams and his Zone System and was fascinated by his technique and the results he achieved. I acquired a 4×5 field Camera from England (I had to assemble it myself) and tried to learn to use this technique. I was far too impatient and undisciplined and also it was too expensive for me to shoot 4×5 sheet film so I started working with Medium Format Cameras which I still use particularly for very long exposures (many hours).
#3 Do you have an artistic/photographic background?
I went to Art and Design College in Aarhus – Denmark where I studied Graphic Design and Art. However, I never finished my studies but went on to take a degree in Electronic Engineering.
#4 Which artist/photographer inspired your art?
The first photographer that really touched something inside me was Ansel Adams. His images are at every level sublime. He had an ability to draw the viewer into the image to such an extend that it felt like you were standing there right next to him while he was carrying out his meticulous adjustments and taking the photograph. Brett Weston for his fantastic ability to extend the range of a photograph while still keeping details in everything. Later on I became aware of Roman Loranc. His “Water” and “Trees” portfolios, especially his “Tule” series have a feel that I am still trying to capture. Michael Kenna of course who has re-defined the rulebook of Contemporary Photography and is continuing in doing so.
#5 Most of your photographs shows oceans, seas and other waterscapes. What fascinates you in this subject?
I was born and grew up in Denmark, which meant I was always surrounded by water – the ocean, lakes and rivers were everywhere I looked. 24 hours a day. My senses were filled with the smell, sound and the visual impression of water. Water to me represents life and the equanimity and power of nature. Water is where I came from. My fascination with water is never ending. I can sit on the shoreline for hours without taking a single photograph and just take in the sea. I am consciously trying to focus on and experiment with different subjects which is interesting in itself. I’m always drawn towards strong and simple shapes and designs so you’ll likely see some non-water work from me at some stage although water is where my hart is.
#6 Your photographs are characterized by a state of harmony and balance. Despite the calm we can feel the drama. What inspires you to create these works?
My work contains a strong sense of tranquillity and calm but also of some drama. I am often asked if this is who I am, or if my art is a way of escaping from something else or if it’s purely decorative? I guess you can say that this is who I am or more precisely this is who I’d like to be or it’s a state I’d like to reach. Although this state of calm and balance is in stark contrast to the pace and stress imposed upon us by modern life, I can’t say I am trying to escape from something. It is a state of equilibrium that exists everywhere around us which I am constantly searching for and whenever I cross it I endeavour to capture it with the camera.
#7 We can see your photographs only in black and white, why have you chosen to present them in this form?
Colour to me distracts from the inherent graphical qualities of a photograph. Black & White leaves the viewer free to create his/her own impression and feel of the shades and tones and most importantly to create his/her own interpretation of the emotion of a image.
#8 What does photography mean to you?
For me, photography is a visual medium that offers me the opportunity to express the way I see and feel things around me. Photography is paramount to me and acts as an outlet for my creative energy. If I didn’t have this I’d do something else creative like playing an instrument or painting f.ex.
#9 Could you tell our readers how to reach such excellent results in photography?
30 years of trial and error and a huge amount of self-discipline, self-critique and patience. I try and keep it as simple as possible i.e. I don’t have lots of cameras and lenses that would clutter my workflow. I use a digital set-up and an analogue set-up and nearly always use the same lens. I learnt the art of photography by looking at and analysing my favourite photographers work, seeing what excited me and by looking at photographs I had taken, asking myself questions such as ‘Why doesn’t that work while this does?’. Sometimes I would go back to one of my older (favourite) photographs and try to analyse week, after week why this particular shot worked for me. Slowly I would begin to understand what it was that made it “sing” and through this process I began to understand and was very much wiser not only about my own photography but photography as an expression of art. I think the analysis process is paramount for me. I gather understanding of the why-when-where in my self and my work and am able that way to devise and take my next step on my photographic journey. I impose rules unto myself f.ex. to only take photographs that include water. Whilst this may seem limiting, it actually frees up my artistic energy. It leaves me free to only focus on one theme and explore and develop that subject in depth.
#10 Do you work as a professional photographer or do you pursue the art as a hobby?
First and foremost I do photography for me – no one else – to satisfy my own ego and passion. I used to do a lot of commercial photography when I was a full time photographer but I ended up resenting having to make photographs that someone else told me how to do and that I disagreed with so I stopped before I lost all my passion for photography. I have recently been approached by several Advertising Agencies but so far nothing has materialised so I will wait and see how this develops. Having to make a living from photography is not a position I need to be in or necessarily would like to be in.
#11 What do you do in your life besides photography?
At this stage of my life, I have a family and 2 teenage daughters to support so I earn my main income from working as a consultant to the IT Industry. Photography supplements my income. Maybe one day this will change and I will again work full time on photography but if that is to happen it will be on my terms and conditions.
#12 Are you planning any exhibitions of your works in near future?
Apart from Group Exhibitions in the US and the UK, I’m planning several Solo Exhibitions next year the first being a Show put on at ICETWICE in the UK and titled “Aubade in Black and White”. So far the plan is to open at Easter so I’m still in the process of creating new work for this.
#13 Is it possible to purchase your prints and, if so, where?
All prints shown on my website are available for purchase as limited edition prints either through one of the galleries representing me or directly from me via my website.
#14 What future plans do you have? What projects would you like to accomplish?
I take a year at a time. I am constantly trying to improve my technique and my artistic eye. This takes a lot of self-critique, contemplation, work and patience. My workflow has changed a lot since I started photographing again. I now spend many days, sometimes weeks, on each shot. As long as it takes till I feel it’s right. I am very satisfied if I achieve 12 images that I am happy with in a year. I still have plenty of photographs to make on the South Coast of England and Isle of Wight and also I am contemplating spending some time in Denmark, Scotland and France shooting. Apart from making photographs I am always working with Galleries, Journals and Magazines etc. and that takes a lot of time and travel. By the end of each year, I will weigh up what I have achieved and then decide on my plans and goals for the following year.
Steen Doessing Official Website: