Story 135: Ida Chlöe Lou Olsen

What is your backstory?

I was raised in countryside suburbs of Norway in the 90s. I soon wore Adidas buffalo shoes, lip-gloss, and flared low waist jeans. I got my knees, toes, and fingers dirty in the forest by a pond capturing tiny frogs in jars and climbing trees, did all kinds of sports, dance, and anything cheeky, really, like painting the neighbour’s car just to have a laugh.

In primary school, my parents got me some disposable cameras. I photographed class trips, close-up portraits of friends, landscapes, dressing up in costumes, and many self-portraits. The films were developed at the local, and sole photography store of the town. I don’t think the guy know what he was doing. When the folder of images came back from developing, I decided to stop talking for a while. Images made more sense. I made an album and put it on a shelf in my room. A holy artefact of my own creation. I took a scissor and made collages of the rest. A tad bit creepy. I also studied my parent’s photo albums a lot, found it peculiar to see my earlier self in their images; their eyes, or to see them as young, something else then my parents. It made me question past and future. Their albums always emerged as a loving act. At the same time, the images elucidated an absurd performance. I became curious, maybe slightly obsessed, with the idea of maintaining memories. Death anxiety consumed me, but images helped to decode it.

Throughout high school and college, I continued to make a lot of messy snapshots. At twenty-three, I met my former lover, a most important person of my life. He had glued some black and white analogue street photographs on his apartment wall from a photography course he’d done in Australia. I remember one image in particular, a man sitting on a bench. It was lovely, intentional. These prints made me consider photography differently, as an intimate declaration of liberty, history; a force of language to manifest what I had obsessed about as a child. I didn’t need to stop talking, I could do both. Two years later, while returning home from a month-long train-trip through Europe, I decided to apply to a photography course in Oslo. I got in. This further led me to achieve an art degree in London. I am constantly thankful for all of this.

What camera gear/editing setup do you use?

I make images with analogue film on medium format. I prefer to keep my process simple, absent of equipment. Now, I use a Japanese Zenza Bronica 6x4.5. Prior to this, I have used a Hasselblad 500cm 6x6, which is probably my favourite of the two. There was an earlier period where I used a digital camera with an 50mm Art Sigma lens, but I moved away from this when I discovered the Hasselblad. I need a slower process that moves me into a calm space.

What I appreciate most about both these analogue cameras is that you must look down while you make the image, and that while you look down, materiality shows itself reversed by the mechanics. This stimulates me. You must think and move in an opposite manner to what you normally would. The world shifts for a while, and I can hyperfocus. I like to think of this display as a doppelgänger reality; the double sense and subliminal part to what we see or are. It feels as if entering the loophole of a set system. As physics tells us, we can’t alter the flow of time, so bending its space for a while seems a sweet alternative. Looking down also seem to make people more comfortable when they are portrayed, and I want people to feel good about themselves.

How do you achieve the look of your photographs and could you take us through the process?

I primarily use black and white film, Ilford HP5. It is pure and timeless. Sometimes, I use colour film, either Kodak Portra 160 or 400. I will be able to make fifteen photos on one film. I like this. My process of editing is simple, the focus on light and surroundings. I always hope that the image comes out of developing as I remember seeing it. I can get a bit disappointed if not, like the camera has deceived me. However, an altered appearance can also be seductive, and you must learn to accept its flaws.

Could you tell us the backstory of some of your photographs?

The images shown are made over several years, but their roots all travel within the same circuit. Lately, I have looked more closely into ‘the land’; how our identities are shaped by the land, and how we shape the land around us. My imagery has a performative side to it – both an external and internal bond (touching something, a reflection) is valuable for my process. I look at themes of passages, such as time and space, identity, and home. A lot of my work is also about conveying messages and language, often the subconscious, ethereal, and tangible. My latest work, Song of the Iris, is based upon Greek Mythology and Iris, the goddess of the rainbow and messenger of the gods. Iris is said to be a link between the gods and the mortals.

What advice do you have for aspiring photographers?

As for most, nothing seems perfect or definite. Nor should we maybe want it to be. Any attractive or glossy display, such as trends, it fades with time and moves in a loop. They will still talk about the same bunch of people anywhere you go, even if you achieve something similar. Try to mould your own tangible part. At least, in my opinion, to observe, share and touch feels more satisfying than listening to an echo, looking into a mirror. I try to have a continuous dialogue with my awareness, accepting sorrows and pleasures of life as they arrive; allowing it to reconstruct my reality.

Spend a whole day with someone naked in bed and you may know what you need about them, for the relation to give meaning, or not at all. However, you must also understand your own part in any connection. Art is a little bit the same. I’ve found that people usually express who they are the first time you meet them, either by word or body language. Images confess messages, too. These messages may make sense or not, often depending on your response. Something can be beautiful because of what it is or isn’t – a synthesis – where images unveil awareness of the world. How you view or embody this is your consciousness.

At heart, images appear not as a clever artifice, but rather something simpler; a declaration that reflects what someone love, hate, fear, and desire. In time, when you must come to terms with the character of your existence, most choices were always yours. What do you wish to manifest within your life, or art? Virtuosity, curiosity, remembrance? Something else? We search for similar, but also different things. Be weak, strong, whoever you are. The meaning within an image is only a metaphor for all of this. You cannot really touch it, only demonstrate. What do you want to demonstrate?


Ida Chlöe Lou Olsen


Story 136: Austin Quintana


Story 134: Emiliano Zúñiga Hernández