We spend some time speaking to Kristian Bertel about how he approaches his photo subjects and how his photographs from his India inspires him.
Interviewed by Jorge Saninas
- Kristian is a travel photographer from Denmark that mainly takes photos of people and landscapes. His compositions are often with vibrant colors depicting the daily life in India. With photography his approach is to show aspects of the world by telling stories of the people he meets and of the places he discovers. Photographing in India the photography examines the relationship between the natural everyday life world with portraits and landscapes. The photos show different people often with a melancholic expression in their eyes. Some of his photos from Jodhpur takes a point of view of a stunning cityscape with a variety of blue colors throughout the city. This point of view is seen on photos submitted to National Geographic in many varations.
Jodhpur, India in the evening by Kristian Bertel.
JS: You work with photography, is your photo work an extension of your see your own life or how you see others?
KB: I have worked with photography for a long time now, and it indeed informs all of my other work. Photography has given me a solid visual foundation to build from and my other work is definitely an extension of it. Yet, at this point I believe my photography and projects express my concerns in a a more viewable way.
JS: Your website is a large photography website with slideshows portraying India's everyday life and landscape and the hard life, how does the interaction between the individual and the world interest you?
KB: Much of my work for the past years has revolved around this relationship In particular, I am interested in our collective obsession with controlling our lives, yet there is still both a longing and a hope towards succeeding in life. We are constantly reminded that despite our best efforts, it is nature that is ultimately in control. Delhi in India is a superlative manifestation of this duality - an cultural city with New Delhi as a modern city full of hope, but when you see all the poor people you get the feeling that you is constantly in the midst of chaos.
JS: What is it that draws you to pick up your camera and take a photo?
KB: There was a time when I would just go out for the whole day to shoot, forcing myself to make work, every when I didn't want to. While it was a very disciplined way to work, it didn't exactly yield the best imagery. These days when I pick up a camera it is for the express purpose of photographing something already planned in advance. I feel that I do a better job looking at the world without trying to looking through a view finder at the same time. I only using the camera as a tool once I know exactly what it is I want to photograph. It's a means for me to reflect upon my view of the world in a carefully crafted and precise manner.
JS: Is there anywhere in the world you'd like to work that you’ve not been able to yet?
KB: Absolutely, there are several places I would like to go. For starters I would like to continue to work in India. I also would like to make more photo pieces with a natural human presence. Using my focus on faces.
JS: How do you want viewers to respond to your work, in particular India?
KB: I believe my work exists on two levels. there is an immediate, carefully crafted, visual element that initially demands your attention. That can be a set of eyes from a face, but there is also a much more complex set of concerns that I want people to consider after viewing the work. In other words, I want the work to be a starting place of a discussion, something that all photographers must want to a certain extent. In the case of India, I think it's very important that the viewer become enveloped in the viewing experience, which is why I present my photos with a theme in their content.
JS: How did you go about protographing in India?
KB: I began photographing people while walking around, a couple years ago. It was fall, and, I remember that in particular in Delhi, there was an enormous flock of people who walked by all he time of the day and that inspired me. By the time I arrived in India, I had become quite attuned to looking around while I was walking. In the subcontinetal area, where India is located, the sky, particularly in autumn, can be almost unnervingly purple. I am fascinated by the morning and afternoon light. I wanted to make a piece about street children, I worked to encapsulate this idea by walking around near the road in Delhi, often without our truly paying any attention to other things in that moment. I spent the next weeks shooting as much as I could around Rajasthan, both static shots and photographing through the crowds of people. Then I spent the next six years putting this photos together to create a narrative.
JS: How do you gain your subjects' trust?
KB: You have to be a personable person. I'm a good actor. If you're not a good actor, you'll never make a good portrait photographer. You have to create an atmosphere about yourself that's appropriate to the subject and the environment so you have to be a bit of a chameleon and a very good manipulator.
JS: Do you have some advice for photographers starting out?
KB: With digital, everybody can get the exposure right now so you get practitioners that aren’t particularly creative. I see digital as a positive if you can use it correctly but negative in that photographic schools are full of thousands of people who have no talent for photography but can get the focus and exposure correct. Twenty years ago, in the age of film, their images would never have come out - they’d be black or burnt-out and out-of-focus.
JS: What about photographers who are talented?
KB: You have to be happy to suffer. It’s an extremely difficult life. You just have to live, eat, breath, love it 24/7 and you have to be like that for the rest of your life. If you’re willing to make that sort of sacrifice that’s fine but, if not, you’re never going to make it.
JS: Your portraits are striking in their classic composition What’s more important for coming up with ideas - preparation or spontaneity?
KB: Spontaneity. I've learnt how to focus in the moment. Although I've been photographing people for a long time I still try to feel a bit scared, a bit nervous about the situation, so I can get the best out of myself with all this adrenaline and nervous energy passing through.
JS: Having photographed different people - from street children, to mothers and street vendors - are there particular subject with whom you work best?
KB: I like photographing people who are both formally and non-formally attired in traditional clothing or dresses. Because of how commonplace that type of sari dress is, it knocks back their individuality. And then it’s up to me how well I light them because nothing else is going to help.
His photographs of India and its people are currently showcased on Facebook with a fanbase that counts more than 39,000 people.
Here you can see Kristian Bertel | Photography's page on Facebook.