Danish photography in english – part 2


As mentioned in part one, a new generation made itself seen in Danish photojournalism in the late 1990’s. One of them was Joachim Ladefoged. He did several reports from Kosovo and Albania from 1997 onwards – which, among other awards won him a World Press Photo prize in 1998. These photos have been published in a brilliant book, but since it’s in Danish it falls outside the scope of this text.


Ladefoged is presently a member of the VII photo agency, and has contributed to a couple of books, together with other members of the agency. So far, he’s only solo work in English is something rather different than these reports from areas of war and conflict. Mirror (Ajour, 2008) is about bodybuilders. Most of the book is made up of portraits. The bodybuilders are all photographed on a black background, staring right into the camera. Their almost naked bodies has a sinister, dark brown colour – which comes from bronzing lotion.

According to Ladefoged, one of his motifs for the book is fascination of the people behind this sport, which many people might find a bit bizarre. I have to confess, that at least for me, it doesn’t really work that way. I feel alienated from these figures, which reminds me of characters from some dystopian sci-fi movie. Mixed in between the portraits are a few shots of bodybuilders training. I would have liked some more of them – and maybe even some photos of these people when they are relaxed and doing ordinary things in ordinary surroundings. But you might feel otherwise…


Nicolai Howalts Boxer (People’s press, 2008) is in somewhat the same line. It’s even more minimalistic in its concept, though: 42 boxers, aged 11 to 17, are portrayed straight on, standing before a white background. Each are photographed twice, and even though there is no further explanation, it is clear that the first shot is before a fight and the second is after, since most of them look sweaty, bruised – and some even bloody – on the second one.

Honestly, I don’t really think the photos on their own, one by one, are something to get excited about. On the other hand, the book as a whole works in the way, that it certainly make you think about these kids and their motivation to climb into a ring, and start hitting other kids. Is this enough to make up a good photo-book? You may judge for yourself…

Even though Extreme (no publishing data) by Morten Rygaard is also about sports, it’s very different from the two above. These are pictures of mountain climbing, skiing and snowboarding. We see fantastic landscapes of rock, snow and blue sky. We see people doing spectacular stunts or climbing steep summits.

I have mixed feelings with this book. I can certainly recognize that Rygaard is very good at what he is doing. These are well composed, technically fine photographs taken in very difficult circumstances. But it is as if there is too much “wow” and too little “aha” in these pictures. As if I’m looking at a travelling brochure or a catalogue of climbing gear. These pictures certainly grab your attention – but will they keep it for long?

To be continued…

Previous: Danish photography in english – part 1

Next: Danish photography in english – part 3

3 thoughts on “Danish photography in english – part 2”

  1. Hi, I know this may not be the place, but I am looking for photography of the Danish island of Endelave. My girlfriend is first generation Danish and her family owned property on the island and used to visit when she was younger. Was looking to surprise her by finding some prints and framing them for her birthday. This may be a tall order but any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!


Leave a comment