Scandinavian Design is characterized by a seeming simplicity; though the complexities behind this careful aesthetic should not be underestimated. Jonas Bjerre-Poulsen is one of the founders of Norm Architects. He’s also a significant name in photography. Jonas uses Phase One equipment and we spoke with him about the Scandinavian design concept to find the bridge between his creation of minimalist physical spaces as an architect, and capturing these same spaces as a photographer.
The architect and the photographer
“We founded Norm Architects in 2008. Today we work globally with residential architecture, commercial interiors, industrial design, graphics, art direction and – of course – photography. My interest in all these disciplines is basically an effectuation with aesthetics in general.
In our designs, we always strive to balance — between richness and restraint, between order and complexity. In most Scandinavian designs, there are always details that take the product beyond the strictly simple and give it something extra. We try to reach a point where there is nothing to add and nothing to take away that can make the product better. We also focus very much on the quality of the details.”
“As the American Designer, Charles Eames said; “Details are not details. It is the details that make the product.” – and when working with minimalism, this is very much the case. I think I have carried this design ethos with me into the world of photography.”
On Scandinavian design and minimalism
“Scandinavian minimalism is not a modern style. Minimalism has been the norm in many cultures all over the globe since the beginning of civilization. Reduction and perfection has been the main goal for both craftsmen and inventors – because avoiding the irrelevant means emphasizing the important. All too often people think of architecture and design in terms of added grandness. But it is often the plain or the reduced that is most striking.
In our work, we aim for a geometrical purity, a simple naturalness and a humble authenticity for a spatial sense of calm and repose. We want to arrive at the maximum of expressivity with the minimum of expression. We try to balance the visual, the tactile and the sensual to create an unusual but harmonious experience.”
“We bridge the masculine and the feminine with an obsessive attention to detail. Our style is almost a non-style, which I think can be understood and appreciated by all people regardless of cultural preferences.”
When Scandinavian design meets photography
“I have actually never given much thought to the correlation between Scandinavian Design and my photography style, but I am pretty sure that focus on spaces, simplicity and daylight in architecture that Scandinavia is known for, is something I have carried with me into photography.
When framing images, and working with light, I have an architectural approach to the matter. When looking at my images, I can also see that there is a special focus on the melancholic and desaturated atmosphere that you also find in the nature that surrounds us in Scandinavia.
All the elements of our design philosophy that I have just described above is important in my photography. The only things I can´t work with is how the photograph tastes, smells, feels and sounds, so I have to be careful communicating those haptic qualities through the visual. Therefore, I try to focus on capturing the tactility of what I capture.”
Using the Phase One XF 100MP Camera System
“I have never been trained in photography and I know absolutely nothing about the tech side of things. I have never cared much for all the equipment, but gradually as I have discovered I could do new and better things with better equipment, I have forced myself to take interest in it. My experience with using the Phase One equipment has been amazing. I have never before experienced such a level of details in my images. I have never before been able to capture the tactically of what I was portraying in this way. It’s a whole new thing and through the images I am suddenly able to understand and see the materials in detail in a whole new way.”
Looking to the future…
“We have so many exciting projects in the pipeline regarding both design and architecture. When it comes to photography I am looking forward to photograph for a new book project and I have a small photo exhibition coming up in Copenhagen later this spring.”