Friday, 10 June 2011

Up and Coming: Petra Stridfeldt

On this occasion we have decided to start a new post section with a series of interviews addressing the work of emerging as well as established photographers. For this post we decided to invite Petra Stridfeldt a Cheshire based photographer who started her photographic career in Sweden as a darkroom technician and photographer. She describes herself as a restless soul due to her moving location 25 times, which included migrating to England twice.

Although Petra has had different professions and moved many times she has continuously kept her passion and interest in photography. In 2008 she decided to return to photography full time and started a BA Hons Degree in Photography.

She is particularly interested in conceptual art but she also practices documentary photography whilst travelling on her long trips in various countries on her motorbike. On these trips she photographs ordinary people in their daily routines.

She also has an interest in the environment and the effect humans’ consumption has on both the environment and its animals. In 2010 she did a documentary project about global warming that covered the flood in Cumbria. She recently finished working on her final project at university entitled 'Want', as part of Manchester Museum’s redevelopment of a new gallery, “Living Planet”, which is an exploration of the natural world and people’s relationship with it. The work is aimed to be presented in a minimalistic and conceptual way.

She uses both film and digital and her work can often be described with words such as tranquillity, minimalism and space, which is probably influenced from her home country.

CC- I understand that the work was initially geared towards addressing global warming issues but later expanded into incorporating a dialogue of mass consumption and the effect that this has on the world...

PS- Yes, that’s true, the initial idea for the project was to create installations in the natural environment to show how the effects of over-consumption increase global warming, but as the humans’ behavior of denial became more interesting I decided to incorporate people in the images instead.

Each image means to represent three key ideas: over consumption, humans’ denial and my concern about the way in which the planet is developing.

CC- Do you think that the fact that you are producing, what could be seen as 'beautiful' images could detract the attention of the viewer from understanding deeper issues related to over consumption and global warming.

PS- I don’t believe so as they may look ‘beautiful’ but at the same time they have a grotesque look to them. My aim when working on these portraits was to let the viewer to be thrown between a sort of admiration and guilt and conversely, allowing people to make their own interpretations on the work.

CC- So do you think that by utilizing ‘beauty’ as a strategy the viewer can become indulged and grasp a clear understanding of the concept or concepts behind the work?

PS- My intention was not really to lecture the viewers about the environmental concerns as this method of scaremongering has been done endless times and as a result, people don’t seem to take much notice any longer. The intention of creating these portraits is to catch the viewers’ attention with its ‘beauty’ long enough to awake a curiosity about the subject matter.

CC- The cleanness and neutrality of each photograph is another interesting feature that adds on to your work. They are very pleasing to look at but at the same time they have a very eerie feeling. Images such as the face wrapped up by a bag or the bandaged face metaphorically symbolize how we have been obstructed and distracted from observing reality and as a result we become very impulsive to over consuming goods etc. Can you explain a little more about the aesthetics behind the image production?

PS- I believe that the aesthetic approach of my project is very much influenced by my Scandinavian background where cleanness and neutrality are very apparent. Additionally, space, minimalism and light are also important components in my work.

The covered faces are metaphor for humans’ denial, the way we choose not to see how our own laziness affects the planet. The portrait does not show individuals; instead it means to represent people who use consumption to generate a short moment of happiness for the expenses of the planet’s health.

CC- So your strategy is to represent a self-portrait of us human beings?

PS- Yes, I believe that we all are depicted in them. I think by using a wittiness to represent the human’s stupidity I’m playing with the idea of bringing food for thought without being too negative.

CC- Have you got any plans for continuing to produce more images based on this body of work? Or are you planning to produce a new series addressing new issues?

PS- Both really as I have a few more ideas for these portraits but also new ideas to show this subject matter which I intend to develop further.

Petra Stridfeldt recently exhibited at Liverpool during the photography biennial 'Look2011' and will be part of a group exhibition entitled 'EverythingEverywhere' in collaboration with Manchester Museum to take place at The Chinese Arts Centre in Manchester from the 16th to the 19th of June.

For more information on her work and other related links please visit: