Clas Kristensen Interviewed by the World Photography Organisation’s Matthew Oxley. Using his own style of abstract, luxurious imagery, Clas Kristensen takes the tradition of sports photography and turns it on his head.
Shortlisted in the Professional Sports category of the 2015 Sony World Photography Awards with his series of images ‘Northern Lights’, Kristensen is relatively new to the world of professional photography, but has quickly made his mark, which is now confirmed with his success in the world’s largest photography competition. We spoke to him to find out more:
Tell us a little about yourself; when and why did you become a photographer?
Thank you, it was a great surprise and honour to be shortlisted. I’m a 34 year old medical doctor and freelance snowboard photographer. I have been living in Tromsø, Norway for the past 15 years. The city is located above the arctic circle and that makes it a great city for winter sports photography.
I’ve been snowboarding for about 19 years but the last 3 years I’ve been standing more and more behind the viewfinder. I feel I never planned on becoming a photographer, I just drifted that way as a result of many factors.
The best thing about this type of sports photography is that you’ll have to work together with other people to create a good image. Nothing beats the feeling of capturing an image when you can share that feeling with the rider. To experience that feeling together with friends is one key factor to what keeps me going as a snowboard photographer.
You have a varied portfolio, with differing styles, locations and genres. But your images shortlisted in the Sony World Photography Awards this year are highly abstract in nature. Tell us about these images in particular and why you shot them as you did.
I tried to capture something that was different to a standard winter sports image. To give it a more artistic feel and hopefully capture something that could be on a wall in any home regardless if you snowboard or not.
How do you decide when to shoot in black and white and when to shoot in colour?
To be honest, many times I decide to go for a black and white image at home in front of my computer. I often try out both color and black and white when editing and just go with what I think looks best. Obviously there are certain times when I know a black and white image is the way to go. Contrast, shadow, light and texture are key things I look for before I decide if I’m shooting black and white.
In your opinion, what makes a successful sports photographer and what advice would you give aspiring photographers hoping for success in this genre?
That’s a difficult question. I’m still trying to make it. Maybe the key word is patience. Shoot a lot, read sports magazines as you would study for a test in school. Study what other photographers are doing and find out what you like or not. Borrow from what you see and try for yourself, but don’t copy, just borrow. You’ll probably find your own style but be patient, it takes time.
Do you have a photographic philosophy?
I would like to think that my photos could contribute to keeping the culture of snowboarding alive. I think a big part of snowboarding got lost when it grew into an olympic sport. I hope my pictures could be a reminder that there’s more to snowboarding than just competitions.
Can you tell us about a current or future project you’re working on?
Since I live in the northern part of Norway the mountains and the ocean are a part of what I see every day, but I might have gone blind to this view. A part of you forgets how beautiful it is when you have been living with such beauty for a long time. This year I’ll try to open my eyes again to see what surrounds me every day. The goal is to combine mountains, ocean and snowboarding.