Susanna Hesselberg: I started as a painter and worked in a very non conceptual tradition in my first years at art academy. Then I had to buy myself a camera to make documentations of my work (slides, this was loooong time ago) and while looking at cameras I immediately fell in love with a classic Hasselblad 500c. So I bought it and just stared at it in admiration at first but since I was in this very inspired environment with people working with video and photo around me it didn't take long until I had a stream of photo ideas in my head. Very easy actually i just had to do them like I saw them in my head. And for me being a painter working hard trying to let my controlling mind go (only then the paintings turned out good) it was such a sensation being able to work more conceptual and with fixed images. I still paint, love that to but not for exhibitions.
© Susanna Hesselberg
Kaitlynn Scannell: Your images are very playful and at times off. Where do you get your inspiration? Any blogs or other artists you are inspired by?
Susanna Hesselberg: No, I don't look around that much on other photographers maybe a bit in the beginning, photographers such as Annika von Hauswolf, Candida Hofer, Jorg Sasse, Erwin Wurm etc.
Instead I read a lot that gives me images, see a lot of films, I can also get inspired by commercials and fashion photography but mostly because they annoy me. The oddness and playfulness is just me I guess, I have 3 important hangups with photo that I probably never going to be able to get rid of. I want them to be alluring on the surface, there shouldn't be anything in the way when you are looking at it...not bad quality (I use 4x5"), Since I'm a old painter colors and form are always important.
And i need to have fun with it, not so much while taking the picture (this can be a long tiring process) but looking at it long after I still want to wonder to myself... what the hell did I mean with this?
© Susanna Hesselberg
Kaitlynn Scannell: Do you have any advice for aspiring/ student photographers?
Susanna Hesselberg: Depending on how you work have fun! And even if you think an idea are stupid/ you can't explain it/ to much like some other artists work/ or it means that you have to stand upside down on a ladder 5 meter up in the air. (I've done that) if you still have it in your head after 2 weeks do it! The results probably going to surprise you and if not so what? you go it our of your system.
Never walk around with a portfolio to different galleries trying to get an exhibition, not in Europe anyway, doesn't work. They will seek you out if you do good things. That's their job.
Don't say no, in the beginning of your career, if you're offered an exhibition even if you don't like the space, participating artists etc. Do the best of what you get, all exhibitions normally lead to something else.
Be loyal with your fellow artists and colleagues, be generous with tips, help or what ever support you can give, except perhaps your camera, (never lend out your important work tools!) This is a super tough world and it certainly won't be easier if artist also work against each other, everyone needs help, sooner or later even you.
Have respect for your ideas and work. Be meticulous, take care of details, think quality...but never put art on a pedestal, if a catastrophe happens, so what it's just a photo.
Travel, read, watch a lot of good films, and always have your eyes/mind open.
Kaitlynn Scannell: In many of our classes we are question whether we are photographers or artists using the medium of photography. Could you give your input on the subject and on whether or not you would define yourself as either or, or both?
Susanna Hesselberg: For me that's never been an issue, I never understood the problem, it's just words. Form me an artist is a person working with ideas, emotions, an explorer in the human mind if you life. It doesn't matter then in what medium she/he choose to express this in. A photographer use photo as medium to tell something; journalism, fashion, documentary, architecture, art etc.
The photo is such a wide area with a lot of different professions, that's just cool and a big advantage. When I go to a portfolio show for photographers I meet so many different people with different backgrounds/ideas etc. when I go to a portfolio show for artists...it's the same boring people...
I sometimes try to use the title photographer instead of artist to hide behind when I don't want to explain the strange idea I'm working with at the moment. But it doesn't work so good anymore because these day speople immediately ask....ah photographer, in what field? Think that says it all.
More work by Susanna Hesselberg can be found on her website: