driven by coincidences

Mike Sweeney interviews
Ole Brodersen


Our art co-editor Mike Sweeney recently had this exchange with Ole Brodersen, our Issue #25 featured artist. Here’s what he had to say about the inspiration for his series Trespassing, his connection to southern Norway, and the small variations that occur over time within an environment…Read more

Our art co-editor Mike Sweeney recently had this exchange with Ole Brodersen, our Issue #25 featured artist. Here’s what he had to say about the inspiration for his series Trespassing, his connection to southern Norway, and the small variations that occur over time within an environment.


You’ve been working on the Trespassing series for five years now. Can you tell our readers how this series began and how it’s evolved over those five years?

Besides from heredity and environment, which we will return to, Trespassing arose from a specific work: Styrofoam #02. I brought a big block of Styrofoam to one of the islands surrounding my home, lit it with a flashlight and exposed for about 45 minutes. During the exposure, the wind blew the block over, and I ran to turn it back up. This is how the elements came to play a role in my work.

I keep returning to older solutions, while still developing new. I call these assemblies markers. The markers have been varying in complexity through the years. It is a spiral evolvement if any, or maybe wavy. Varying abstractness, complexity, scale, etc. It’s somehow like being close to someone for a long time, seeing them every day; you do not notice the aging. It is likewise hard for me to pinpoint the difference between the first and the last photo in Trespassing.


Where do you see this series going in the future?

I see it continue like now, endlessly hopefully, but I have always been doing related side-projects, which I think will take up more of my time in the future. This will probably shape Trespassing’s evolvement as well.


Your family has lived in Lyngør, a car-free archipelago in southern Norway, for 12 generations. This deep history with a location, and a natural environment, is not something most Americans can relate to. Can you share with our readers your perspective on how this has formed your sense of place and your relationship with nature?

I have become sensitive to changes in the weather. It affects you in a stronger way out there. Actions are often required to adjust. Like when you sail. A spring tide could flood the ground floor of my father’s sail loft. You just have to be a bit more alert. I enjoy cities because it is somewhat of a time-off. Weather vacation. But cities lead you to a kind of elemental ignorance. There’s nothing an umbrella can’t fix.

As for the history, it is hard for me to explain, as I haven’t experienced any other option. I feel rooted and very much at home, as well as extremely privileged. Proud too; there is something special about knowing you descend from the first family that settled in your village.

Childhood here was very centralized and sheltered. My mother ran the kindergarten in our garden. The grocery store is 100 meters away. The school 50 meters across the sound. I think it is important for everyone to travel and experience different cultures, but maybe especially if you grow up like this. It could be easy to become ignorant.


Similarly, your family has worked in sailing and sailmaking. Can you speak to how this relationship with the water has affected your perspective as an artist?

I have sailed since I was six and taken care of an old wooden sailboat for 18 years. I guess it is quite apparent that this relationship shines through. I am working together with the elements, not against them. Embracing them. But also giving them a carte blanche, which you would never do while sailing or being on the sea. My relationship to the sea is more coherent while sailing than while working with art.


In your bio, you mention that a couple of years ago, you circumnavigated the Atlantic Ocean in a 120-year-old pilot cutter. Can you share a bit of this adventure with our readers and how the experience has shaped your work?

All crew members pursued different careers upon returning home. A truly remarkable experience. Challenging as well, mostly socially. You can say we were characterized by the weather for a year. How wet we were, how cold we were, how fast it went, etc. Obviously we could harness the wind, but the weather was definitely in control. This control and characterization has shaped my work.


When I look at your work, no matter the series or subject matter, I get a strong sense of quiet, a lack of disturbance. Even the trespassing materials feel somehow nonintrusive. Is this intentional? A reflection of the environment that you were raised in?

«Skjærgårdsparken» is the name of the national park surrounding my home. It was expropriated in the 70s and has been available for the public ever since. We are all guests there, whether you come with a cabin cruiser in July or with a kite and spinnaker in February. This nonintrusive interaction with the environment is not an old matter though; we used to burn garbage on these small islands 20 years ago. We are learning as we go.


I’m fascinated by your process and the results it offers. You use a large format camera with long exposures and no way to see exactly what the image will look like at the point of exposure. Can you talk about why you choose this method rather than, say, the immediacy and ability to select from many images that a digital camera would offer?

This project is driven by coincidences. The weather the given day decides where I set up and what markers I can use. The markers are made mostly by things I find. There are simply more coincidences with this method. And as for that eventual strand on my negative upon the time of exposure, well, I like for that to follow me to the final product, the print.


I’m also interested in your choice of materials and how you use these materials within your images. Can you speak to your choices here as well?

Different materials are affected in different ways by different elements. Some of my markers are manipulated by waves, some by wind, some by both, and so forth. I usually use what I find in my Grandfather’s shed and my Father’s sail loft but also modify them with sparklers and LEDs. I usually bring many different markers in my boat and apply them where a reaction will occur. No wind, no kite. Rough sea, staying inshore.


The Trespassing series explores encounters between humans and nature. As someone who has grown up on the sea, I can only imagine that the environmental changes and concerns are magnified for you and those living in this area. Does this affect your work or what you’re looking to say with your work?

It has not affected my work nor my statement. Trespassing is more analysis and description than a comment. It reveals something invisible while illuminating something visible. I understand this is a natural interpretation, and none are wrong, but it has not been my intention to comment on this matter.

By Ole Brodersen

Ole Brodersen is a 35-year-old Norwegian art photographer who works mostly with staged landscapes. His series “Trespassing” explores encounters between man and nature, and is produced in the island society Lyngør where he grew up as 12th generation. He is strongly affiliated to this place and the maritime elements here dominate his motifs. His father is a sail maker, his grandfather was a sailor and he himself used to row to school. Brodersen‘s photographs were last shown at the Scandinavia House in New York; his participation supported by the Norwegian Consulate and mentioned by the New Yorker and Harper‘s Magazine. His works has been acquired by private and public collections in Norway, Sweden, Serbia, Malawi, the United Arab Emirates and USA. Brodersen has sojourned in New York, Prague, Belgrade, Stockholm and Porto. He is a member of Norwegian Society of Fine Art Photographers and Norwegian Visual Artist‘s Association. View more of his photography on his website: