January 25, 2021
THE HUMAN ELEMENT
Photography by Kenneth Nederskov Petersen
Interview by Karin Svadlenak Gomez
For Kenneth Nederskov Petersen, photography is a way of life. This year has been a challenging one, as his normal style of street photography has been put on hold in light of the pandemic. Instead, Kenneth has turned his lens towards the muted beauty of architecture, capturing it in the lonely night streets. However, as the year draws to a close, Kenneth is looking forward to a future where he can once again return to the hustle and bustle of street photography with a sense of freedom and artistic expression.
“I received my first camera at my Christian confirmation. My uncle was a good photographer and was my inspiration. But the learning curve was difficult. The challenge was not to see the result instantly. Everything changed for me when digital was the new standard. Now I could see the result immediately.”
IN CONVERSATION WITH KENNETH NEDERSKOV PETERSEN
THE PICTORIAL LIST: Kenneth, where do you find your inspiration to photograph?
KENNETH NEDERSKOV PETERSEN: Hmm...they come from all over. Books, movies, architecture, music, life itself. I cannot stop photographing, so I do not think too much about this. There is an element of hunting in it too. Street photography is not necessarily the easiest genre. You can come home with no good pictures. The more satisfying it is when you come home with something worth sharing.
TPL: What has been the best advice you have ever received in photography?
KNP: Photograph the things that interest you, and do not photograph what you might believe interest most people. If the passion is not there, the struggle will be bigger, and the pleasure smaller. I do not live from my photography, so it might be easy for me to say that.
TPL: Do you have any favourite spots to go photographing? How has the pandemic affected you and your photography?
KNP: Copenhagen is where I feel at home with my photography. Around the harbor line, the train and metro stations, in parks and more. The pandemic has turned my photography upside down. My wife is kind of exposed at her job where she is looking after small children and my kids are in school. I am working from home (as a purchaser of spare parts for buses and trucks) and I try to be the one less exposed to the virus. This is stopping me from going onto public transport and to be at places with many people - this left me with lots of frustration. I then started a night photography project by going out in the dark with my tripod and taking long exposures of architecture and buildings in the local areas. This is just the opposite of street photography and has been a very fun and giving project.
TPL: What is it that you enjoy about street photography? What happens when you walk the street with your camera? Explain your technique. How do people generally respond?
KNP: Street photography captures a glimpse and a moment of life that happens just as you click the shutter. If you are lucky, then you document the time of year and/or the decade of a time. You can also capture something beautiful, something about the country and area, something very human, colors, light and much more.
When I walk with my camera, I am in a mental zone. I am more aware and more alert. I get the best results when I am alone. I try to be quiet, to blend in, or act as a tourist, I smile or just pretend that I am interested in other things than my subject, or even shoot from the hip. At events like demonstrations, I pretend to belong there as an official which allows me to get close and photograph portraits. My smaller and old school looking camera makes me less intimidating than running around with a large camera body and a big telephoto lens.
TPL: What do you want to express through your photography? And what are some of the elements you always try to include in your photographs?
KNP: The human element is important in my photography. But there can also be something very graphic pleasing and mathematically satisfactory with symmetry or when things are in a certain order in a picture. And then again chaos can be as satisfactory, if that is what I see in a situation. Architecture has also been a part of my photography recently. Copenhagen is in constant development with new buildings and exciting architecture.
Treat people the same way as you would like to be treated by them. This is also my go-to phrase with the camera. I do not try to photograph embarrassments. A photograph can be humorous and still respectful.
TPL: Do you have any favourite artists or photographers you would like to share with us, and the reason for their significance?
KNP: I enjoy work from Elliot Erwitt, Nick Turpin, Angela Ambrosini, Nils Jorgensen, Shane Taylor, Matt Stuart, Alan Schaller, Sally Davies, Annie Leibovitz and many more. I have found some photo friends at Instagram too. I am very glad to see Li Mullen listed here as 2021 photographer. As much as I enjoy the work of these people, I cannot copy their work. When I am out, my mind and head is totally cleared and wiped clean. If my photography looks like someone else's work, then it is completely unconscious and something that I am not aware of myself. But what I like in other photographers' work will naturally show up somehow in my own work.
TPL: Does the equipment you use help you in achieving your vision in your photography? What camera do you use? Do you have a preferred lens/focal length?
KNP: Fujifilm has been a real game changer for me. I was coming from a big heavy DSLR - Canon 5D - which was not a street ninja tool. Fujifilm mirrorless was lighter, more intuitive, it has old school dials, and it is somehow discrete and not very offensive. XT1 was my first Fujifilm camera. I missed something in handling, but then I bought the XT2 Silver edition. It does everything I need it to. If there are any mistakes, it is my mistake and not the camera. Features like auto ISO and electronic shutter are fantastic. 23mm F2 is my go-to lens = 35mm equivalent in full frame. I have tried to use longer lenses under Covid19, but I think and compose in 35mm focal length. I can shoot without looking with one hand or from the hip, and still know what is in the frame. I do also use other lenses (not much though) - mostly a 50mm F2 = which is about 75mm on full frame - for events and portraits. The current gear has stopped my lust for new cameras/lenses, and I can focus on the important part - the picture itself. I might try a X100V one day, but I still like the flexibility of being able to change lenses.
TPL: When you go out photographing, do you have a concept in mind of what you want to shoot, or do you let the images just "come to you", or is it both?
KNP: When I go out shooting, I normally have a plan of districts I want to visit. I do not normally have a special concept and idea. But when the pandemic is over, I will for sure go out with different projects in my head. Inspired by my Night Photography project under Covid 19.
TPL: Have you ever been involved in the arts before photography?
KNP: I have always been creative. First with the music which included school concerts and more. Now photography. To be able to fulfill the creative side of life completes me somehow.
TPL: Are there any special projects you are currently working on that you would like to let everyone know about?
KNP: As mentioned before, I am working on a Night Photography Project right now. This project has led me to continue with night photography and architecture pictures - also after Covid 19. I hope to add more portraits to my portfolio. It might be street portraits; it might be normal portraits - time will tell.
TPL: When I am not out photographing, I (like to)…
KNP: When I am not out photographing, I like to be close to my family and friends, to travel, to cook, to walk the dog, to play the keyboard, to watch action movies and Nordic Noir thriller series.
Thanks for listing me as a 2021 photographer. I feel very honored.
Kenneth Nederskov Petersen has faced the challenge of adapting his style to the pandemic. Despite the hardships, he has continued to capture the world around him through his unique lens. As we look towards a future with hopefully more freedom, Kenneth's words serves as a reminder to never stop seeking out beauty in the world no matter what the circumstances are. Let's use his example as inspiration to explore our own street photography, or whatever art form speaks to us – and never stop creating.