I was featured on the Cambridge Creative’s webpage (www.camcreatives.co.uk). Here is a repost from the interview (2015-04-04).
CC talks to Johannes Hjorth about his photographic process, interest in dance and theatre, and telling a story through art.
How did you get into photography?
There are many answers to this question as I started photographing when I was very young, using the family camera. Perhaps the most interesting part of my photographic journey began in January 2014, when I decided to start my photo blog “Hjorth med H”. This marked a transition from photographing what happened around me to more actively seeking out things to photograph, and sharing my photos with a wider audience. The ambition was to make one new post per week.
If you are in Cambridge and like photography, then I would recommend joining the university photo club Phocus. They organise many fun events themselves, but equally important are the notices about different photo opportunities that they forward to their mailing list and Facebook. That was how I first got in touch with the Cambridge University Musical Society, and then later the ADC Theatre. The latter has become a bit of a second home for me.
You photograph a lot of dance and theatre in Cambridge — does that reflect a particular interest in either on your part?
My interest in theatre and dance springs from photography. I have always liked photographing people and what I found so interesting about theatre was that you have this smorgasbord of action and emotion served right in front of you. I really enjoy trying to capture the story in my photos, which is not easy. During a tech rehearsal you can get retakes, but during a dress rehearsal you usually just have the one chance.
When photographing dance, do you feel it’s best for you to remain an outside observer, or are you drawn into the show yourself?
For pre-choreographed shows that I photograph I am purely an external observer. However, I also do ballet photo shoots and then it is more of an interactive process where I take an active part in creating the visual image. Looking back at my old photos I can see how the photos have developed, especially in regard to timing and having an eye for what makes a pose striking. My friend Clara Novo deserves credit for helping me by pointing out what to look for in the poses. I am a slow learner, but I am getting better at capturing the right moment.
Whilst shooting, do you have the final, edited result in mind, or is the process more organic?
Most of the time I know roughly how the photo should be when I take it. I sometimes play around with composite photos, and then it becomes increasingly important that you have a vision. There are other cases though, when I have photos that did not turn out the way I had intended. These I usually experiment a bit with in post processing, with mixed results.
How important is it to tell a story with your photos? Do you prefer to let the performances speak for themselves?
I find it more and more important to tell a story. When I pick the photos from a theatre play I try to keep a narrative by including key moments of the play. I have also started to do different themed photo shoots, where the photos are inspired for example by poetry.
Your blog seems very reflective — do you see it as part of your photographic process?
In a sense, the blog is a documentation of my journey, where I write down what I learn. Hopefully some of these comments are useful to others. Lately there has been lots of photography and the text part of the blog has been suffering a bit.
Do you have any advice for would-be photographers?
There is plenty of good material available online, which can help you improve your photography and post processing. I have listed links to a set of resources below, where you can find helpful information. Once you have a basic understanding of your camera and composition it becomes more about finding interesting things to photograph. Joining a photo society can be very inspiring and lets you quickly develop your skills.
In this blog post, I have linked to two YouTube videos that I find inspiring. The first shows you how to find good light in different situations. The second is about composition (the first half of it is really good).
If you want to read more about composition, have a look at Canon of Design. It is a 365 blog project, and the first hundred or so posts are quite useful. However, after a while the author started to paywall the good stuff.
Also check out the Photoshop tutorials about post processing on Phlearn.com
Is there an event, place or person you dream of photographing?
Photographing a big movie set could be fun, or to go on a long photographic journey to some foreign place. Maybe I should get in touch with National Geographic – one can always dream. I have been in Cambridge since 2011, but my research contract is running out and my time here is coming to an end. So we will see what happens next. Currently photography is a fun hobby I take a bit too seriously.
I am always looking for interesting things to photograph, so do get in touch if you have any fun or crazy ideas.
Nice interview! Greetings, Sander