'Hester' by Asger Carlsen

BY Lola Lalic | Fri. February 22, 2013 | 12:00 AM | Culture Club
Danish photographer Asger Carlsen pushes image making to the limits, experimenting with its possibilities through editing and composite techniques. Existing somewhere between photography and sculpture, his work features distorted and impossible bodies that are both shocking and intriguing. His latest publication, Hester, available at OC London, focuses on the female nude in surrealist forms. Recently, Claire de Rouen held a book signing with Asger. Afterwards, I had the chance to discuss his process and influences.

Lola Lalic: When and how did you begin making these images?
Asger Carlsen: I have always felt drawn to images that don’t explain themselves too much or too quickly, but leave you open to create your own interpretation or relationship. One day, I began putting images together and it resulted in an image with multiple eyes. In an odd way, the image gave me a strong connection to who I wanted to be as an artist and self-confidence.

LL: You were previously a crime photographer—how does this impact your work?
AC: Not directly, but I guess it’s part of how I formed myself as a photographer. I don’t think you can fake what’s real either. I would say photographing crime scenes gave me a hint of reality.

LL: What is your process when starting a project?
AC: For Hester, it was casting a model and photographing her in as many physical positions I could think of. A session would last no more than one hour and afterwards, I would sit and stare at the files on my computer for a long time. It becomes this process where I am actively trying to form or shape an image that could not be a part of this world. It’s a very time-consuming process and it can become almost obsessive. It really requires concentration and patience.

LL: There is a clear surrealist and sculptural element to your images. What influences you?
AC: I like all of the surrealists, including Francis Bacon. The uncanny is important because it creates a sense of familiarity in the work and helps to create illusions. With Hester, I trusted my intuition. I am interested in the idea that images can function as an image but also have a sculptural quality.

LL: The images of Hester distort the traditional idea of the female nude—what are you hoping to reveal or deconstruct?
AC: I have never really meditated on the history of female nudes. If anything, I left out fabrics and clothing because it allowed for more possibilities in post-production. The images are also timeless without the fashion and cultural references that clothing sometimes prescribes.

LL: In Hester, more so than your previous book, Wrong, it seems like the editing and manipulation is more important than the photo itself—to what extent is this true?
AC: Yes, eventually the process becomes more about the images being assembled. Each model I photograph has different “skills” that I use to form and create textures.