Tine Bek is a Danish photographer living in Glasgow. In addition to her own pursuits as a photographer, Tine has recently curated a series of publications entitled The Photographic Earth Sagas, collaborating with an international medley of photographers.
Tine could you please tell me about your educational background in photography and relevant experiences up until now?
I knew I wanted to be a photographer since I was 12; I was very firm on that. I initially studied history at the University of Copenhagen for about a year full time, but I could see how the years would just fly by and all of a sudden it would maybe be too late to be a photographer in the way I wanted to be.
I started interning with a commercial photography studio; I had no idea that you could be an art photographer. At the time I was 19. They called me the ‘adult intern’, because you don’t really intern in Denmark, especially six years ago. They all kind of laughed at me, but also they liked that I would work for free.
After that a photographer within that studio hired me as an assistant. I worked for four months mostly editing people’s faces and working with Photoshop. After a while he could see I was getting bored and recommended the school Fatamorgana in Denmark. The programme was one year. I remember being apprehensive because it cost a lot of money, and we don’t normally pay for education in Denmark.
“The way of looking at photography was so different there—very personal, raw, naked, close to boundaries, and always a bit provocative.”
How was your experience at Fatamorgana?
That was where it all started to kick off. The way of looking at photography was so different there- very personal, raw, naked, close to boundaries, and always a bit provocative. One of my classes at the time talked about Ryan McGinley. I remember thinking this guy is so fresh and doing whatever he wants, and they’re naked. I wrote an email to Ryan McGinley’s studio manager. Basically I was just lying, saying I’ll be in New York, do you need an intern or assistant? They were having interviews soon and told me to pop by. I bought a one-way ticket to New York like an idiot.
What year was that?
This was 2008/2009. I went and luckily I got the internship, and stayed in New York for a bit. I didn’t know New York at all. I got sent out on these random trips, and I think I had enough courage at that time to just do whatever. I realized when I was in New York that it would be really hard for me to make it there at that point because I didn’t have an education and didn’t really know my photography that well yet.
Did you have an opportunity to go to any of Ryan McGinley’s shoots?
I was mainly a studio intern. I did a lot of collaging, fixing films, and editing; I had a chance to really see how a studio works. At the time I was one of 6 interns, and although that sounds like a lot it really did feel like being part of something. I had a chance to grow and also it gave me a clearer idea about how I might have to approach things. A lot of the pepople I interned with are still there. I could not stay in New York for technical visa restrictions. But I also felt like I wouldn’t have done my own work as much if I had stayed. Instead I looked into schools for fine art at a university level. I found Glasgow School of Art and Gerrit Rietveld in Amsterdam. I actually wanted to go to Gerrit, but my application got lost, and I got into Glasgow.
Are there certain cameras that you find yourself using for specific situations?
I’ve actually been dreaming lately that my camera is broken. I only have one camera that I use regularly, a Contax T3. At the moment the Contax is the most convenient camera and I know what I can’t take on it. If I’m not too far away with flash on, it will always be, as I want it.
How do you approach self-publishing?
I have done small print runs—small enough that I can pay for it myself, but still enough quantity for people to have. Right now I’m working on the latest one, Barok, which was for my degree show. It’s still in the dummy stage.
Is this the book that was shortlisted for the 2015 Bar Tur Photobook Award?
Yes and the Young Nordic Photography Dummy.
How did The Photographic Earth Sagas come to be?
So far there are two volumes. The overall idea was to publish three volumes. At the moment I think it’s more than a trilogy—maybe a trilogy every year. Once the second volume is finished with promotion I will do an open call for the next one.
Could you talk about the first issue Et Dieu Créa la Femme?
I re-watched the film Et Dieu Créa la Femme (And God Created Woman) starring Brigitte Bardot whilst on residency in Argentina. It’s such a cliché and a lot of my work is about clichés and representations of females. Bardot is both wild, and also sticking to the rules of what a woman should be and should look like, but she wants to break out of it. In being in Argentina at the time I was thinking about this whole way that women are treated differently. It’s a very banal thing, the way that men look at women in the street. It hit me hard, I didn’t like it at all.
Was it an aggressive environment in terms of the attention you received?
Yes, it seemed so normal, but I really took it personal. It took me a month to get used to and ignore.
You didn’t find New York to be similarly aggressive?
No it felt different, maybe because I understood the language. It’s probably the same in New York.
How did you find the featured female photographers?
Most I found in collaboration with the residency or through people there. In Argentina I met Guadalupe Miles who is famous for portraits of young women. I happened to see her archives of slides. It was different from the work she is popular for. She took pictures in the desert in Argentina with landscapes that look like vaginas. From there I started looking into a way of reclaiming the female body and female gaze as a reaction to the aggressiveness in the streets.
Your publication is both a view of the female perspective as subject and as creator. Do you have any opinion as to where it sits in relation to current popular photography that has championed itself as feminist photography, but is primarily focused on the body within a predominately white demographic?
As I was putting out the publication I saw a book coming out that fits that description. If you only saw the titles it would seem the same, but it is the opposite. The photographers featured are an international group of varied ages. I wanted to show something that is a bit more real and maybe not nice. I also wanted the photographers to show something personal to them. It was very much up to them as to what to portray. So some of the images do fall into this category that could look like something that is popular now. It was important for me to do the publication, but I was wary of being put into that category.
“Where is it going to go if that is all it is about—what you look like in front of a camera or computer?”
At the moment it feels difficult to avoid falling within this trend of photography if you address gender as a female creative. This is not due solely to these works of art, but also the discussions surrounding them, which bear a kind of cultural amnesia in regards to the history of feminist art.
It’s a really young thing and I think it’s a dangerous area that we are going into. Maybe because we are using this word ‘feminism’ all the time, and everyone is claiming it. I think it’s tricky when the work is only about the body and representation of the body. If you read feminist writers you learn more about the view of the female, not just how we look, but how we see ourselves, and see other things, and each other. Some of this work is very now, and I wonder what about in 5 years or 10 years time. Where is it going to go if that is all it is about–what you look like in front of a camera or computer?
You’ve also published Age of Man; did you always intend to have a book addressing the male perspective as well?
In the beginning I just wanted to make one publication. Once the book was out I knew I wanted to do something else, mainly from the reactions I received. A lot of my friends who are male photographers pressed me on why I felt the need to do this. It made me wonder could I do it the other way?
In addressing both a female and male perspective you’ve focused on gendered perspective, and played with gender as a whole. With Age of Man you are focused on how males approach masculinity.
We’ve been talking about how the female is very much the hot topic at the moment, and for some reason, the masculine, and also the non-gendered, are still things that people don’t really want to talk about. I don’t have the answers, I’m just asking a lot of questions. I think that it’s important to keep addressing these things. We think that everything is resolved and it’s 2016, but there are still so many things that we don’t know and it’s good to keep pushing these boundaries.
“I wanted to approach big themes that are almost too ridiculous to try to put in one book—the female, the male, sex or sexuality.”
For the next open call issue do you have any idea what you want to do?
It’s going to be about sex. It’s kind of lame. I wanted to approach big themes that are almost too ridiculous to try to put in one book–the female, the male, sex, or sexuality. It keeps it from being too serious or too dark. I want to be a bit cheeky about it.
You have been involved in a number of photographic exhibitions and reviews as a result of online applications. As someone who operates in a small art community, how have these international opportunities via the internet impacted your practice?
I like being away from it. I don’t know where ‘it’ actually is; I guess all over. It’s nice to have a base in Glasgow where you can just do your work and the online thing is a different world. I don’t feel like an internet person, I feel that I’m much more ‘live,’ or come across better live. Most of the things I’ve done outside of education came from the internet, which is normal nowadays. You might think the trick to getting featured or acknowledged is about knowing someone, but it’s actually from people exploring your work online.
It seems as though it has expanded what you have been about to do with your career. You’ve been involved in events for Houston Centre of Photography and the Aperture Summer exhibition in New York.
Part of this is applying for everything you see, which can be hard. I just did an application the other day, which was £25. I thought fuck, this is too much, but I made a rule in my head that anything photo related doesn’t exist otherwise. I just have to spend it. There’s a way to be smart about submissions, and approach galleries yourself. You don’t have to do all the open calls, but if you do and become one of the lucky ones selected it can help so much. People see your involvement and think, oh she did that then we’ll look at her. It’s sad because it should really be about the work, but photography can be so competitive.
“With a musician…they know how important it is to have that visual representation to go with the music.”
You have worked as a freelance photographer, mostly within music. How do you find this?
It’s been within the last 6 months that I started doing this. A friend had asked me to take photos for his Soundcloud. Glasgow has such a big music scene. I don’t go to enough gigs or explore the city as much, but there’s so much good stuff happening. When I go to meet these people I have no idea who they are. They are just a person. I’ll listen to the music, but honestly it’s more about what I see when I meet them. I really love it and hope to do a lot more. When I approach people to photograph I question how far I can push it. With a musician, they just want the best image and will do anything to get that, because they know how important it is to have that visual representation to go with the music.
Do you feel a pressure to bring this out of them?
In a way yes, but it also makes it easier because we are working together. The few times that I’ve worked with models it’s been nice because they want it. The faster you get it done, the easier it is for everyone. It helps when people are used to the camera. The best thing is shooting someone who really likes it.
Is there anywhere that we can look for your work next?
The two Photographic Earth Sagas books are out now. Barok will be coming out. I will be doing some talks this year, and a lot more is still unknown.
Jennifer Lauren Martin is a photographer living and working in London. From October 2015 through to March 2016, Jennifer worked with the Wandering Bears team, helping gather and write content for the second instalment of WB Chapters.