Portfolio Overview, Special Feature.
In an exclusive special feature, Carnival Magazine interviews the incredibly talented fine art photographer Emma Hartvig about her stunning body of work. With underlying themes of fetishism and voyerism, her ambiguous photography is largely inspired by the Hollywood cinema screen. We talk exclusively about her multi-disciplinary inspiration, her extensive world travels and the story behind her continuous search for satisfaction within her work...
Emma Hartvig is a Swedish-born photographer currently based in London, UK. In the photographic world consisting of carefully arranged objects next to clear-blue swimming pools, juicy fruits, dripping milk and staged eroticism, Hartvig explores pleasure in relation to problematic idealisations. Although the playful and colourful surface of the photographs suggests a celebration, there's something different beneath it all. Underlying themes such as fetishism and voyerism are controlled readings within the photograph. Slick, glossy and well-composed images of objects and bodies with no natural connection invites us in the disappearance of meaning and representation - only to reveal an aesthetic, artificial pleasure. The photographs have an obvious connection to the Hollywood cinema screen - but since they represent the ambiguous film still, the audience are there to create the beginning and the ending, just like a film sequence. The body of work represents an appetite to discover oneself through desire, whether that it in relation to sexuality or materialism. It's not the nudity that makes it erotic, but rather the paused moment within the image that suggests an intense desire to want more, need more - similar to the role of advertisement. There's no logic, no realism, and the attraction itself is based on a fake representation - it will seduce you in order to reduce your needs.
Tell us about you. What are your hobbies outside of photography?
I grew up in Helsingborg, which is the southern part of Sweden. It's a beautiful place by the sea, with Denmark and Copenhagen just over the bridge. This probably made the whole growing-up much more exciting since it included travels to major cultural cities. I suppose that it also introduced me to what is a major part of my life and my personality; my urge and passion for travelling and moving to new places. I have since my late teens packed many bags and explored places in the world that are now huge influences in my work. First, I moved to London almost five years ago, but since then I have spent a big part of those years in California, US. I guess I have always been fascinated by the popular culture from that part of the world, but spending so much time in both Los Angeles and San Francisco introduced me to a very important part of my life. The freedom of going wherever you want to go, the courage of meeting new people and getting to know a new culture is such an enriching and beautiful thing to do, and that is definitely intertwined with my photography. For example, seeing the meeting point between glamour and destruction in Hollywood certainly fed my inspiration.
How did you discover your passion for photography and the arts?
I have always been a pretty enthusiastic and impatient person, and after doing plenty of fine art in Sweden (painting, sculpture, design) I think photography just made sense. It felt right. I was just extremely excited and happy whenever I took pictures. I was around 13 when I got my first proper camera. I took a lot of photos of my garden and objects I found. I then later discovered that I liked the idea of arranging and carefully plan a picture. By becoming extremely interested in everything I do, I tend to research and read plenty of whatever aspects that are included in a body of work. My photographs are somehow born from my readings and perceptions about a subject. This helped me develop my style from just photographing everything I find aesthetically pleasing to narrowing it down and really getting lost in a project.
Where did you begin your career in photography? Where did you train to become so talented?
I would say that I am self-taught. However, I studied fine art as a teenager, which gave me plenty of time and space to just make a lot of work. I recently graduated from London College of Communication where I definitely grew and developed in my own style. My photographs have always looked pretty similar, but by learning to contextualize your images with research, theories and general subject understanding, I personally find it easier to make better work and to push myself further and further.
What do you love most about the medium of photography?
I mostly work with digital photography, so the technical aspects thrills me; the fast-paced commercial way. I tend to manipulate my images a lot, so I like the control you have when you work like that. But I do really love everything about the medium; darkrooms, chemicals, printing, studio lights, graphic tablets… I think it's important to be open to it all.
Your work captured the Carnival Magazine team’s attention due to your incredibly vibrant and unique style that is so refreshingly original and alternative to the work we’ve see. How would you describe your photography style?
Thank you! I suppose my photographs are very arranged and carefully composed. Geometry, form and colour are dominating the surface. Its photographic approach is a very slick and glossy one - advertisement is not too far away. I have always been influenced by cinema and I hope that comes across. The cinematic aspect is a major part. I always look very carefully when I watch movies; details within a single frame, or a certain mood that a movie carries become something suggestive in my work.
Where do you find your inspiration for photographs / shoots?
Well, there is the obvious part where I find it in all the places I visit or the people I meet. Everything from a diner in Los Angeles when sharing a milkshake with a friend talking about our latest movie-crush, to the gritty streets of London where I often spend too many hours sitting in cafes drinking endless cups of coffee listening to other peoples conversations. But the ruling source of inspiration comes from the extreme research I do when I decide on a subject I want to explore. I completely dive into articles, books, films, music and anywhere else I can find useful information.
Which photographers inspire your practice?
I'm going to be boring and say everything! Commercial, editorial, ads, fine art, film stills, landscape, documentary. I do really love it all. I guess that comes down to my love for dividing the photographs into tiny parts and look at them in their details. But, if I should namedrop, I'll say William Eggleston, Gregroy Crewdson, Guy Bourdin and the movies of David Lynch.
What do you love most about the industry?
I absolutely love meeting people that are talented and inspiring. So, what I love the most is collaborations, meetings, shared passions, support, challenges and the colourful and stressful environment you're constantly in.
In contrast, what do you find most challenging about it?
I feel like there's a huge focus on personal promotion instead of a promotion of the actual work. This means that many artists and their work disappear. You have to be strong and determined at all times. You have to make some scary decisions. Often. You have to deal with rejection. Sometimes there's very little money and sleep. But it's all really worth it.
Where can our readers find more of your work, where else has it been previously published?
My work is mostly online-based with the occasional exhibition. I have been previously published in Waterfall Publicatios, Pitch Zine, SF MOMA blog, Revs Digital, My Modern Metropolis, Top Photography Films among others.
Where do you create your pieces? Do you have your own studio?
For the past few years, I have been on a constant travelling foot, which makes it hard to maintain a studio. I was lucky and had a wonderful space whilst doing my degree. I'm used to being on the move, so I am pretty good at creating a studio wherever I am; sometimes I'll rent one, otherwise I make one in my garden, or in my kitchen. I just find the space and the light.
Tell us about the work that you are showcasing with Carnival Magazine.
There's a few different bodies of work included in Carnival Magazine, but they all come together in their visual similarity, and in their prompt attempt to seduce. Anything from pink pineapples, melting ice cream and milk spilling to beautiful bodies and moist lips are all included in a narrative-based world where kitsch, advertisement and cinema meet.
Which, to date, would you say is your favourite photograph? Which are you lost proud of?
That is a super hard question. I'll have to say the blue image where milk is pouring out from a bottle, near a grapefruit. The reason is because it was so much pleasure in the making. The whole idea behind my photographs are the search for satisfaction. So in the process of making a picture, I'm equally looking for satisfaction. And that picture certainly gave me that.
Which shoot (or photograph) did you find most challenging?
Anything that involves models. I am very focused when I shoot, so I prefer not to talk. But when there's models involved you have to make them feel comfortable and direct them. It's the whole 'getting-out-of-your-head'. It's fun though!
How has your outlook on life changed from the beginning of your career to now?
That's difficult. I feel like I am in the beginning of my career now! But if I look back on the past few years I have developed a certain confidence in my approach to both my own style and the photography industry, and I definitely know more about who I am and that I do what I do because of it. I suppose that gives you a real boost. I feel more optimistic and excited. More work comes out of me.
So, what's next? What are you currently working on? What is the future for you and your work?
This is a new chapter in my life, so I'm leaving London for now. New start, new adventures! I am working a lot more commercially and the ad-world is something that I'm slowly moving towards. Obviously, I'm open to anything at this point in my life. We'll see!
If you could be given "the dream shoot" and team, how would this go?
I would develop my love for staged and arranged photography. I'd love to work with a massive team. Set builders, Art Directors, Actors...
What advice would you give an aspiring photographer (or fine artist)? Any tips?
Be curious. Research! Maintain a desire to want more. You'll never know what or who you'll find on the way. Be open.
See more of Emma's incredible work in Carnival Magazine Issue 02 and on her portfolio website.