Abstracting the Essence: A Conversation with Kristine by Crystal Labbato

There is little more satisfying about participating in a mobile photography community than the joy felt while watching the way a favorite photographer explores and re-explores their own private corner of the universe.  Even better still is when that relentless pursuit of seeing continuously produces images that at once soothe and exhilarate the senses.Kristine Norlander (@kristinenor) is one of these photographers.

Kristine often describes her mobile photos  as “daily sketches.” Indeed there is something to this in the sense that she has developed a very personal vocabulary to describe the whats and wheres and hows of the way she sees. Her photographs have the ability to tell entire stories in a single breath.  She is able to capture all of the feelings of expansiveness and complexity in her environment, exquisitely reducing them to their most essential elements in a visual expression which is uniquely her own.- Crystal

Crystal: Will you share with us how you first became interested in mobile photography?

Kristine: A friend of mine showed me the app about two years ago, and my first thought was that this was a perfect place to collect everyday sketches of things that caught my eye. After a while I noticed that it was not only about collecting pretty stuff, but also receiving inspiration in different ways of seeing from other IGers all over the world. And then – I was kinda hooked. My ways of sharing pictures developed from shooting pretty things into a new way of communicating; expressing emotions and telling stories in my own visual language
Crystal: What is your usual process for creating one of your elegant mobile sketches?
Kristine: For me, mobile photography is basically about seeing. Looking at your surroundings with a different eye, finding beauty in the transformation of things as you place them into a new context. I shoot a lot – beauty is everywhere. And then the process continues as I edit; picking up pictures in Snapseed and check out what kind of cropping that works. What feels good. Straighten, tune – and I got this habit of desaturating the images, I guess. Colors tend to be too loud. Maybe a round in VSCOcam to see if it brings out some more quality. And that is basically it. Sometimes it is fun to play with different editing apps – like Decim8 and Woodcamera, but I tend to go back to my basic tools; Snapseed and VSCOcam.

Crystal: I feel like you draw inspiration from many sources, music, art, and especially the beauty and love in your life. Are there any particular themes or individuals influencing you especially right now?

Kristine: Inspiration like you say – is everywhere. Of course there are some kind of themes that I often find pleasure playing with; simple lines, empty spaces, shadowplay, reflections, wallportraits, transparency and so on… A theme I love to play with right now is the thing that is most common in this country during wintertime; the color white. How I can build images based on shades of white is really inspiring. And as far as individuals are inspiring me; posting and interacting on IG is all about being inspired by the perspective from users. I learn a lot from that

Crystal: The word “style” can sometimes be a limiting word… but I definitely see a distinct visual language in your photos, and ongoing themes that you revisit over time. What are the sorts of things you like to look for in your photographs? Do you have a favorite subject you like to explore?

Kristine: Well, I guess my visual language has been shaped by different aspects. I used to be a potter – made vessels and sculptures in clay – always in search of the perfect shape and texture. It was a powerful passion. The same passion is there when I shoot pictures; looking for shapes, surfaces and textures – the pure kinds. Perfection. Simplicity. Beauty
I have also been working as a teacher in visual arts in high school for over 15 years now. Teaching about subjects like composition for so long has brainwashed me, I guess. I am a sucker for compositions, loving the process of framing and balancing.

And I love abstract and minimal art; the idea of reaching towards some kind of basic, sublime truth. I love working with emptiness in my images. Something about quietness and how it allows associations to be noticed.

On Instagram, sharing pictures is much about communication. And I like the idea that other people can relate to my pictures in terms of their own memories, feelings or pictures seen. I think I really like the idea that we are all a bunch of sensitive people out there. And we all reach towards each other – wanting to know about ways to see and explore this life. And the visual language shared goes a bit deeper than words sometimes. I think we learn a lot by looking at our shared stories

Crystal: I know you share photos on EyeEm as well as IG. Sometimes IG seems to me very heavily influenced by American culture and trends. Will you talk a little bit about the landscape and culture of your beautiful homeland of Norway and how your environment shapes the images you make?

Kristine: Of course, as for many Norwegians, nature is a big inspiration for me too. Being outdoors, exploring deep woods or high mountains, being by the coast in summertime or go skiing in some big, white space during winter. We love that, and – we shoot it. Those pleasures along with the clean, Scandinavian design-style seems to influence the visual language of many Scandinavian IGers with me (for example @paldyb @elinlia @sannalin @ragnhildsvisuelle @dennishjelmstrom C: You have brought mobile photography to your classroom. What do your students come away with after a photowalk?

Kristine: That is an interesting theme, really. I am writing my masterdegree in arts and crafts these days – about how to use mobile photography as a creative tool. Mainly I write about my experience making my own work using IG as a case. But I also get to test it on some of my students. One of the subjects I teach is media design; where photography is a big theme. Traditionally the pupils use DSLR´s to shoot in school, but using their smartphones tends to change their ways of seeing. It´s more like sketching, which again tend to be more personal. The smartphone is basically a part of their body. They are used to shoot pictures, and post on IG – (aged 16-19 yrs) but when used in a context where I as a teacher give them simple subjects or themes to look for or work with, it makes them think a little different. And that is my goal. I give them something about which editing apps they should try and how they work, and I show them different IGer-artists. The wide range of possibilities and expressions that can be found out there. I try to give them inspiration, and to show them IG can be used to show so much more than pouty lips and party-pics.

So – before a photowalk, I give them different themes to look for. And then I use the account @ig_nvgs to post the themes as tags that they use on their pictures, and I highlight some of their work on that page  Crystal: Recently you brought some of your photographs out of the phone and exhibited in a group gallery show. What was that experience like for you

Kristine: That was a big honor and a great experience. It was the first time I have shown my phonepics as something else than pixels on a screen. And of course talking to real people about our pictures without touching a screen is pretty awesome sometimes!

 // IG  // EyeEm  //

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Anna Cox