Photographer Bjorg-Elise Tuppen knows how to capture and play with other-worldly landscapes of her home country of Norway, to create beautiful, haunting, and atmospheric shots.
Whether its raw landscapes, surreal double exposures, or the use of costumed models, her photos project intense moods and wild visions into Norway’s most dramatic landscapes.
We talked to Bjorg to ask her about her work. It was a fascinating discussion with a few surprises. You’ll never guess who is hiding under this cloak.
How did you get started in photography?
I got my first camera when I was 9 years old and have taken pictures ever since. When an apprentice position opened up in my hometown I was lucky enough to get it.
What was your relationship to nature growing up?
When you live in Northern Norway nature gets integrated in your life from a very early age. There is not such a thing as bad weather and we spend a lot of time outside all year round. The mountains and vast unpopulated areas are also very dominating here, and can be both beautiful and dangerous. So, at a very early age I learned both to respect and worship the unique qualities of the nature that surrounds me.
Have the landscapes of Norway had an affect on how you developed your visual style?
Yes, definitively. The surroundings up here are so beautiful, with monumental mountains, amazing light, and wild and changing weather. In the summer we have 24 hours daylight and in the winter the sun is under the horizon for 6 weeks. But there is also a dangerous and almost threatening aspect about nature here. Especially in the dark and cold winter when there is a fine line between beauty and a hostile – and potentially deadly – environment. These are contrasting qualities, which I try to reflect in my work.
What is your process like when you go out to shoot? How do you pick a location, and how do you explore when you arrive?
In the winter I wear warm clothes and I generally go out to take picture when the weather is bad. I love snowy, windy, icy cold and foggy weather. There are so many great locations here and I tend to go to the spots that fit the project I am working with. While I sometimes need to use a tripod I prefer not to. I feel that this adds spontaneity and freedom to explore motifs within big scenery.
How did the visual strangeness series come about, and what is it about?
This series explore combining contradictive elements to create mood and wonder. The first picture I made was ‘Frolicking Whales’. I was out shooting on a windy, cloudy and humid day surrounded by the roaring sea when the idea hit me. Maybe inspired by how the sea and landscape blended into each other and that I knew that there is a big population of Sperm Whales living just off the coast of where I was shooting.
Do you use a lot of digital manipulation in your photography, and what is your favorite use for digital editing?
It depends on what type of project I am working on. In the ‘Visual Strangeness’ series I have obviously done a lot, but in others like ‘Tåke’ I wanted to reflect the true environment and only adjusted them slightly. I use Photoshop for editing all of my photos.
You also paint. How have your painting and photography affected each other? Does painting shape the way you shoot photos?
Yes, I think so. In my artwork I am driven by a wish to create mood and the expression of how the scenery might resonance in the viewer. Because of this I can manipulate some photos with texture and other effects in order to achieve this. In these projects – like ‘Nature’s Monument’ – I was more driven by the want to create a mood rather then to reflect the nature in a perfect technical shot.
What is the most beautiful place you have ever seen?
I think that is a very difficult question because the beauty I see in my surroundings are often shaped by what I am feeling at the moment or who I am in company with. But if I was forced to chose one I would have to say Andøya on the west coast of Northern Norway. I shoot a lot of my pictures there.
Who has inspired you the most in life?
I think this must be a ‘what’ and I would have to answer my surroundings.
What is the most memorable moment you ever had during a photography project?
Once I was taking pictures of this lovely little white weasel. It was curious and just sitting there a few meters away from me. Suddenly this huge shadow passed right over the top of my head and I could feel wind in my hair. This was a huge Sea Eagle coming down to catch the weasel. They are massive and it almost touched the top of my head. Luckily the weasel managed to escape by running into a nearby barn. I have never seen an animal move that fast before. Sounds like a silly little story, but the size of that Eagle brought adrenalin into my veins.
Can you tell us about Wanderer Series?
One (very early) morning when I woke up and looked out of my window the landscape was covered in this fantastic thick fog. The mood outside was eerie. I wanted to capture this eerie quality and make a different series – not just another beautiful fog series. I decided (this is going to break the spell) to wake up my son and dress him in a huge hooded surf towel. We had a fantastic morning and returned wet and hungry with some great shots. So, the eerie wanderer is really my sweet 9-year-old son.