Surrounded by seven mountains, on the South Western coast of Norway, you find a devoted visual storyteller; Linn Heidi Stokkedal. In this interview, she shares with us her magical journey and exploration through analogue photography.
Heisann Linn Heidi and welcome to Lomography Magazine! What an honor to have you on board! To start us off, can you present yourself to our readers?
I am a photographer living in the small harbour city Bergen on the west coast of Norway, and if you saw the light here, you would live here too.
I can imagine, especially looking at the magic light in your pictures. It sounds and looks really nice and inspiring! Please tell me a bit about how you came to photography?
I owe it to my father because he was crazy about new gadgets and he always liked to experiment with cameras and he gave me a simple point and shoot when I was very young. Even though the blurry pictures I took of farm animals never really impressed anyone, my dad just kept sending them to developing and he always got a new roll ready for me to shoot. I saw him taking photos, and I thought that my dad was great, so I wanted to do the same.
Great, and you kept working analog, How come? Where do you develop your films?
I went to a commercial photography school, which was great because the focus was very technical and that's what I needed to learn. I also learned more about analog processes, darkroom. On all our assignments we could choose whether we wanted to do it digital or analog, and whenever I did my assignments analog, the photos just turned out a thousand times better than my digital work. I think it is the process behind the analog photography that benefits me and makes me a better photographer. The focus is less on the camera, and it makes me more present in the situation.
After becoming dependent on shooting with color film and not having too much money to get my film developed in labs, I just figured I had to learn to do it myself (although I was taught at the commercial school that it was too dangerous to do it at home). Now I can shoot, develop the film in my kitchen, scan and send the photos in one day.
I’ve been looking at your Instagram, webpage, and blog and I noticed literature is a central element next to your work. Sometimes you post pictures of books in your IG stories, you have quotes and personal texts next to your images. Are writing and literature important in your work?
I have always been a very curious person and I find that in books I can indulge that part of me the most. I work part-time in a bookshop where I discover new books I want to read every time I am there, so reading is a big influence on my life. Books can offer you so much, such as visual concepts, emotional support, and perspective on most things. Being a reader is a great way to learn how to see more around you.
In terms of writing, I have always wanted to add more writing to go along with my images, but this is a very slow process. But it's a challenge that I am always working on.
Where do your ideas come from to start a project?
I am one of the most practical people I know, and based on this I always imagined myself as a tech and gear kind of photographer, but I am not. It is in my photography where I allow myself to be dreamy and spontaneous and I think that is one of the main reasons why my photos look the way they do and why I keep doing it. It is an abstract process because my photo shoots are more like an adventure in itself than a photo shoot.
I like to think that my photos are almost a byproduct of what is happening. If I know of a place that really fascinates me (I hardly ever do my work in a studio) I go there with someone and then we just see what happens. Sometimes we have first a kind of planned idea, but it rarely turns out that way. That means that whoever hires me have to be very open to the process. So yeah, my ideas are just stuff I want to check out, or based on the conversations I have with people or something I read in a book, and then I try to appropriate that into some sort of a shoot.
You sent me some beautiful portraits you did out in nature. Can you tell me what the idea is behind these pictures?
Thank you! That day was a lot of fun. I recently purchased my own car, and it is the best thing I have ever done because the range I have now is unlimited and it spells FREEDOM in capital letters. I find driving around really romantic. So I asked my talented photographer pal and neighbor Synne if she wanted to model for this project and she was in! We just drove around exploring a whole Sunday on this Island that neither of us really know, with items from Synne`s curated selection from her personal wardrobe to change her looks a bit. That was the starting point for this story and we had a lot of fun doing it!
Do you do other photography besides portraits?
I love doing band photos! Music is very important to me, so to be able to form a band`s visual identity is great fun! I love collaborating with artists, and with bands, it is always so free. I get so much freedom to play and still keep my own style of photography. Also, I think they feel like they don't have to put on act with me, people get very comfortable around me so I think that's an advantage.
Is there something else you engage in outside from photography?
I keep a busy life, where photography is a part-time job. I can not imagine how it would be to work on it full time. Maybe it is great, but from my photo assisting experience, it appears not so great! I am very selective when people commission me for stuff, and I often turn down jobs if I don't see the personal gain in it. I am also wary about doing too much “commercial” streamlined stuff, not just because I am bad at it, I am also just scared that I will lose my dreamy way if I do that. So I am very grateful to have a research assistant job at the University of Bergen, where I work on a really cool project where I get to do research about new media art. I am also currently curating a photo exhibit at a civic center in town, then working part-time in the book shop.
Are you working on any new projects currently?
I am trying to do a portrait story on my uncle, but it is very hard because I have only met him twice and he is a super recluse in the mountains who does not really use a phone so it is a challenge but also a fun personal project. Also, for the first time ever I have joined an artist space that has the biggest darkroom I have seen. So I am about to dive into printing for the first time in a long while, and with color which is completely new to me. I am so excited to test my patience once again in the dark.
For this series you photographed with the Lomography Color Negative 400 ISO 120. How was your experience shooting with this film?
I found it really great! I have always had a very playful approach to my projects, and I find Lomo to be the pinnacle of playfulness. I was curious how it would turn out after I developed it, and I found that the tones were very rich, and it offers dreaminess on a high level for sure...
And last, do you have any advice give to aspiring photographers out there?
My best advice is to shoot for fun and don`t pay to much attention to others because that is just confusing. If you are trying to be a “type” of a photographer or to have a certain style, then you won't grow as a photographer. There are no labels or rules, just shoot!