Valuing the beauty that emerges from
within regardless of
the environment surrounding you.
Danish photographer Casper Sejersen is responsible for creating the entire brand imagery for the D.W.M. product range along with all of its seasonal artwork. Wearing a crisp linen shirt with a neckerchief, he appears wearing glasses to offset the strong lighting of the shooting studio. Unlike his photographic work which can at times exhibit a somewhat unsettling and surreal atmosphere, Casper himself is down to earth, speaking in a relaxed manner about his approach to work.
Valuing the beauty that emerges
from within regardless of
the environment surrounding you.
You have been shooting with a number of high-end fashion brands. In general, what is your approach to fashion photography?
I’m always searching for ways to show that fashion itself is not perfection. Instead, I’m seeking for a form of expression that leaves space for the viewer to look at the work in their own way. Depending on the brand, I may shoot a model wearing luxury brands in a somewhat disgraceful manner, or perhaps I would put the featured brand items in a highly unlikely or unusual settings, hoping to bring out a more non-conformist view of the of the products being photographed. I feel the main subject is not actually the model, but rather the clothes or shoes the model is wearing. I want each person who sees my photographs to find something unexpected in the images.
When you are working for designer brands, you typically shoot the fashion items themselves. However, in the case of creating the brand imagery for D.W.M., you didn’t actually shoot the products. Instead, you chose to shoot flowers. How did this idea come about?
I was searching for a way to let the narrative unfold without showing the actual products. The brand itself has very few products in its range and these are items that you wouldn’t normally show or reveal to other people. These are products you tend to keep in your bathroom cabinet, which is very intimate in its nature. Therefore, they are very different from fashion items which are used to identify an individual and show off to other people. So, we needed to tell a story without actually revealing the skincare products themselves. I was thinking to myself, “What is beauty? Where does it come from? How do you actually recognise beauty itself?” So, I hit upon the idea to show flora and fauna that naturally have a self-repairing power that for me is the very epitome of beauty. To express that inherent beauty found in nature, I shoot several portraits of one particular flower from various angles. This is a way I really like to work. I already have a sense of the picture beforehand. Taking the photograph is really just the smallest part of the process. I already have a very precise image of what I want to do in terms of the composition such as the way I want to use light, for example.
When taking the pictures, I never stop during the process; I never adjust anything during the shoot, so at times, there may be an imperfection that arises and suddenly you are blessed with a small gift that you would never have imagined at the beginning. I feel that you can also adopt this approach in our daily lives. Imagining that someone will use this skincare product in their morning routine. You start the day with a kind of perfect image of yourself and how you appear. Then real life starts! You still obviously have the product on your face. But as the day passes, you may be sitting under the sun, exposed to bright light, or facing a strong wind. None of the things you expected to be confronted with. But our body, which is ultimately a collection of millions of cells, is continuously morphing. Simply, we just have to accept this rather than try to overcome these unexpected changes. I believe my approach to photography is similar. However, to accept the unexpected, I do have to prepare for every possible scenario in my mind beforehand.
Some of your photos can appear quite unsettling or conjure up violent images. Do you set out to intentionally create such an unsettling atmosphere?
You can interpret this in many different ways. I like art and photography, where what you first read in one particular way and can also be read in a deeper and very different way. Some points of my photographs can be read as unsettling. But it could be that a mark someone has on their neck may just be love bite received from a lover when leaving home, which could appear as evidence of a violent act, but in reality is no more than a sign of affection between a couple. It is not brutal physical violence rather just a mark that life gives you along the way. Another example is a papercut on a woman’s finger. She may have been writing a love letter and while putting it into an envelope, she merely cut her finger. Again, it is just another mark that life gives you along the way. I like forms of expression that are abstract and leave the interpretation up to each individual. In terms of actual violence, I am a pacifist to my very core. But in an aesthetic way, I have been fascinated by the concept or notion of violence. There is something about scratches, brutalism and violence that have a very aesthetic appeal. There is a Danish poet from the 1920s who wrote a poem about a fist fight breaking out between two guys in a bar. The ‘colour’ of the fight being depicting is represented as a rose coming into bloom, translating all that violence into raw energy. I hate violence, but in photography, film or music violence can be transformed into both colour and energy. Like in Kurosawa’s ‘Seven Samurai’, there is a lot of violence throughout the film, but it is always very poetic. I am fascinated by that.
Because of the abstract nature of your work, people sometimes don’t know what they are supposed to be looking at in the photographs. Do you think people might sometimes feel bored or frustrated with your photographs?
I don’t know if boredom is the appropriate expression, however, I like to be in a situation where there is nothing to do. I remember looking back on the summer holidays of my childhood and the first week was always utter heaven then I would feel bored for weeks. I was just all on my own. In that boredom, you create, you have the space to create, looking at the sky through a window, spotting a cloud that looks like an airplane, for example. For me to be bored is a luxury nowadays as we are so inundated with information and the pace of life moves so quickly. In that sense, I like it when nothing is actually happening in my pictures. Some people might look at my photographs and say that they are boring and just pass them by. While others are longing for the boredom shown in my work. It seems as if everything has to be exciting and dynamic these days. This can make me feel stressed out as I like to do things in a quiet way. In a world where the internet can provide the answer to almost any question you have, it is a luxury to have a situation where the answers actually lie in our own hands.
What is beauty for you?
Beauty in my sense of the word is something you don’t cover up; it is form of expression and gesture that naturally emerges from within yourself. When I work on portrait photographs, there is a second just before the model gets prepared for the shoot. It is a certain transient and imperfect expression that the model may reveal which even he or she model doesn’t recognize. I found beauty in such moments. I feel beauty in the works of the American fashion photographer Richard Avedon and also Japanese photographer Nobuyoshi Araki who both can capture that suspended moment just before framing a perfect composition.
Casper is a photographer based in Denmark. He aims for imperfect perfection in his photographic work, working on portraiture shoots with celebrities such as Kate Moss and Harry Styles as well as carrying out editorial photography for various media outlets including “PURPLE”, “AnOther”, and “GQ”. His artistic forms of expression have created new avenues in the fashion photography field working for high-end fashion houses such as Louis Vuitton and Dries Van Noten.
Interview and text by Kanae Hasegawa
Photography by Elizabeth Heltoft
Translated by Leon Povey