The Norwegian photographer, Jarle Hvidsten, spent a full month in Australia travelling around 17,000 kilometres. He speaks about the things he appreciates about the S3, how it performed in the middle of burning forests, salt deserts and ocean surf, and which picture is his favourite.
What was the turning point in your life, that made you decide to become a photographer?
I was on my way to Brooks Institute of Photography in California in the early 90s when London and design education at Central St. Martins became more tempting. I have always been a photographer of some sort since I was a teenager. However, throughout my Art Directing career, I always regretted not going to California when I had the opportunity. Photography has always been the end goal for me, but it was really about twelve or so years ago that I realised I needed to make a decision. I had to go all the way, to become very good at it. When I start something, I will pour in my heart and soul into producing an exceptional end product.
Your fascinating and detailed photography is dedicated to nature, beauty and fashion, as well as lifestyle. How do you manage this wide range?
Well, my background as an Art Director has probably got something to do with it. I studied Art and Design History, which I found very interesting. Learning about the different techniques, means, details and styles in the design eras and genres really hooked me in. The wide range within my career is also due to the Norwegian market being quite small: to survive as a professional photographer in Norway today, you have to gain different skills and master several genres.
That being said, I absolutely love and prefer to work with people. Fashion and lifestyle is an important part of my work. However, I also love shooting portraits of interesting people. Portraying people can be a very intimate experience. Having the opportunity to peer into someone’s eyes and get a glimpse into their soul can be very enlightening, instructive and introspective.
Most of all, I love to dream up and create my own projects, free from the influence and control of others. It’s not too often I have the time or the resources to do so. The wheels upstairs are spinning day and night, churning out new ideas. So when they are mature enough, I have to put some of them into motion.
How would you best describe your photographic approach?
There is a classical core to most of my work – but with a twist. Good craftsmanship and quality are very important to me. Throughout my career as a photographer, I’ve been experimenting. At first it was with the cameras, studio lighting and gear. I purchased and tested the best cameras on the market and just about every existing Profoto light shaper and Bron Paras to be able to control the lighting effects I was after. I’ve also been on an intense crusade to create natural light with strobes – getting as close to this result as one possibly can. And I landed on Leica cameras.
Over the last 4 to 5 years, I’ve developed a love for the look of old film, experimenting with different analogue films, filters, backgrounds, grading, smoke and haze. When shooting with the S- and SL-System, the M-System is also perfect to have on hand in this regard, because it’s both digital and analogue. So having both an M10 and an M7 is helpful in deciding what to use when.
What is the most important skill a photographer needs to have?
In my field of photography, it’s about seeing, and understanding what’s going on. I like to create my photography environment, rather than a point and shoot settings. And the process of conceptualising, planning and executing is often quite long. So, it’s about having the skill set to be able to create what you have imagined and then set out to produce it. And, ultimately, seeing and understanding combined with good basic photography skills.
What fascinated you most during your trip through Australia?
Australia is a very big country with a lot of diverse content. The nature in Australia is out of this world. It changes so dramatically, so often, the further you go. Such breathtaking scenery, and an exciting trip that wasn’t without a few incidents and obstacles. So if you plan to take that trip, I recommend booking an open return ticket.
Do you have a favourite picture from this trip?
I had had some contact with the British model Jessia Rivera a few years before we went but had long wanted to work with her on a project. She lived in Sydney at the time, so I contacted Norwegian designer Cathrine Hammel, and she sent over her collection to Sydney for the occasion. That shoot was the absolute highlight of the trip. The ocean was very warm, and combined with the golden sunset it made the session with her in the water in a dress our favourite moment.
What kind of equipment did you use? And how did it perform?
We had two S3 cameras with all the CS S lenses, plus the Summicron S 100mm. The last one is my absolutely preferred lens from the S system. Not only because it’s the fastest lens in the S series, but it kind of reminds me of the Summilux SL-50mm in look and feel. Beautifully arty and dreamy in its bokeh, but razor-sharp when focused. The task was to test the S3 System on both still and moving images, and we used different lenses throughout the project. And I always have an M on my back. Either my M10 or an analogue M7.
One beautiful thing about the S-System is that the camera and all its prime lenses are water-resistant, thanks to its tightly closed system. We shot in bush fires, at dry and extremely hot salt lakes, in deserts, but also on the beach. And we didn’t once have a problem with the cameras. We were careful to change lenses in the cleanest air possible, knowing then that the camera is ready for almost anything. Andreas, the cinematographer who travelled with me, was very pleased with the files on video and the size of the system. I’ve shot with the S-System for many years, and am extremely pleased with its ISO and high resolution. Typically, I take my SL gear on location and shoot mostly with the S in the studio; but the ISO on the S is so excellent for a medium format system, that there’s no doubt I’ll be taking it more often on-location when extra image quality is needed.
The Norwegian lifestyle, fashion and people photographer, Jarle Hvidsten, was born in 1972. He has his photographic educational background from Central St. Martins, London, and Westerdals School of Communication, Oslo, studying Design, Art Direction and Art & Design History. He started his career in the advertising industry, has been in charge of large international clients and founded the fashion label SPTZBRGN. He has worked as a photographer and image maker since 2008, winning several awards throughout his career as a photographer. Hvidsten is currently represented by SeeManagement in New York. Find out more about his photography on his website.