So let me just say this upfront: I am enchanted by Pernille Sandberg´s photography. I am saving to buy a particular piece one day. We have a spot reserved for it in our home.
I met Pernille through another risk taking friend of mine, Silje Sigurdsen, founder of Kunzt.no, a video publication interviewing artists in Norway nearly every week. But we shall come back to Silje another day.
I then reached out to Pernille on email and started a dialogue around her work and found out she was exhibiting at Grieghallen here in Bergen not too long ago.
I took the kids for a walk in town, bribed them with croissants and they then tolerated 20 minutes or so of my visiting with Pernille in person. But no more than 20 minutes.
She was always sure she wanted to be a photographer and she sold her first images when she was 15. Her father was going to Africa to film a documentary, and so she tagged along, lived in a tent on the savannah, captured what she saw and returned to Denmark to have Gylendal scoop up the entire collection.
She moved to Berlin when she was 18 with no money at all. But she knew she wanted to make her living from photography. “I didn´t think about it all.” The risk. She made a bit of money recording Berlin and selling it on to magazines in Denmark. She remembers eating lots of rice with ketchup. And Pernille just photographed as much as she could, all the time, during the day and during the night in clubs. She ended up in fact flying back to Denmark on the weekends to work in a bar because that paid enough to buy a week of subsistence back in Berlin.
“At some point I got scared, yes, and when I look back on when I was younger, I am surprised at some of the choices I made.”
She used to write a lot as well and this gave her entree to magazine editors who would commission entire pieces from her, both text and image. These people knew people and so introductions were made.
Pernille shoots both for commercial clients as well as for herself. When she is creating art for herself, she´s riding her “inner emotional rollercoasters.” She selects based on “pure emotion” but then can hate her choice the next day. And then love it again the day after. Being an artist is the very definition of a love-hate relationship.
“Taking risks is a state of mind. But, again, everything is relative and the perception depends on the eyes that see.”
The above is from an exhibition and international campaign created in collaboration with Safer Drug Policies. Doing this work was a risk. It´s political. The photographer is no longer safe behind her camera. It´s making a statement about what she and others see as the victims of Norway´s drug policies. The prime minister herself, Erna Solberg, opened the exhibit here in Bergen this autumn. High profile. “Now in the bullseye for criticism” as she put it.
If a person starts a fire in me I put it out there and believe in it.
Pernille said she just had to do it even though she knew she might in fact lose clients in the process. “It was too vital to let it pass” she said to me. I am still relishing that phrase.