When Norway plunges into its arctic winter chill, Trondheim-based photographer Kristine Wathne brings out her camera. Not for any breathtaking photos of the country’s winter landscapes, though, but extreme close-up images of people’s faces exposed to the frigid air, or warming themselves indoors. The pictures are part of her ongoing series, Brain Beauty, which the photographer has been presenting on ISSU. Like many of her photo series, Brain Beauty is shot with an unassuming pocket camera, the Ricoh GRll. But, while the camera technology is limited, Wathne’s eye and technique allows her to strike a balance between DIY punk edginess and fine art, often in the same image.
“I think the cold weather might make us more grumpy,” Wathne tells Creators, noting that the average temperature in Trondheim is 23 degrees Fahrenheit, with a low of 5 degrees. “I don’t know if the cold weather really has added much to the portraits. I guess most of us in town get more tense and serious looking in our facial expressions. Some of the portraits are shot inside shopping malls and inside public transportation [areas]. I’ve spent quite some time inside shopping malls to warm myself up before getting ready to get out and shoot more.”
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Wathne, who is studying for a bachelor’s degree in visual arts, originally studied art photography for two years at The Norwegian School of Photography. She first found her artistic voice and mode of expression while shooting and documenting life with small, compact street photography cameras. She believes that carrying a camera should be a light, easy, and fun experience, which may be difficult to achieve with heavier and more complex DSLR cameras.
For Wathne, new projects come about in a way that she compares to hunting, or a game of Hide and Seek. She’s on a constant search for an interesting character or object to shoot while walking down the street. Most of her series start with a bit of luck after shooting one intentional image. Then, after repeatedly shooting and failing, the project begins to take shape and assume a clearer voice.
“Being a professional photographer shooting and connecting with the people I’m [photographing] and meeting on the streets with my small camera is a bit like being a millionaire in disguise,” Wathne says. “I guess the subjects suppose you might not have a clue about or an intention of taking good images, and I suspect that makes them more relaxed in front of the camera.”
For Wathne, Brain Beauty is a study of faces, and an interaction with human expressions. It wasn’t immediately apparent that the images would become a series, but when she saw the photos presented as diptychs, she fell in love with the unique expressions.
Wathne takes two to three portraits for each person. So far, she has shot over 400 unique portraits of people on buses and out in the streets, and plans to keep adding to the series. Currently, Wathne is focusing on the editorial aspect of the series, and the interaction between the portraits, before she begins work on a book.
“My photographic series are my children, where I am the stem, growing my very own family tree, put together by unique and varied images and stories,” says Wathne. “The series become siblings, where each child is standing out from each other, but still shares a common relation. Viewed as individuals works and series, one can perceive that each project has their own personality, and story to tell.”
Though she is working on finalizing the Brain Beauty series and book, Wathne is still taking photos of everyday life. Not for any upcoming series, but just to have fun if she happens to find something exciting. When she isn’t taking photos, she’s creating visual art books and posting drawings to her Tumblr account.
Click here to see more images from Kristine Wathne’s Brain Beauty, and here to see her analog camera project, Mania, shot with a Minolta TC-1 35mm pocket camera.
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