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An Interview With Sebastian Siggerud

Sebastian Tomas Siggerud is a talented photographer, 3D artist, and filmmaker. His love for nature and meaningful themes shines through all of his creations. I got the chance to speak with him about his love for photography, the reason he reveres nature, and the advice he would give to aspiring artists.

When did you discover photography and what compelled you to get into it?

When I was a youngster, around 14-15 years old, my brother had a small digital camera, a Canon IXUS. (I forgot exactly which model it was.) I borrowed it a lot because it had a "macro-mode" which allowed you to focus real close on objects. I guess I just found lots of opportunities in that simple function of a simple camera! (Weirdly enough I never got into macro-photography for real though.) The same happened when my brother got a DSLR camera. I ended up borrowing it, and I went around taking close-ups of puddles, leaves on the ground and anything I could find, which might look pretty. What always seemed to drive me to take photos was a desire to try out effects and experiment with techniques. At first it was macro, and then it was the 18-55mm kit lens creating a very wide and distorted view, which reminded me of fisheye lenses. Then after that I had a phase with the effects of a shallow depth of field. I invested in a prime 35mm lens, with f1.8. I was obsessed with wide apertures, which I feel most amateur photographers are in their exciting beginner phases. I started thinking about foregrounds and backgrounds and experimented a lot with focuses and bokeh. Then I had some phases with extension techniques, panoramas, old cameras and analog film. I am very grateful for these phases as they kept driving me to keep taking photos.

Which creative skill do you dream of mastering?

Painting. If an idea doesn't work with photography, videos or animation, it always fits as a painting. I have several ideas for paintings I would draw if I were better at it. As a kid I loved to paint, but I never ended up focusing on improving my painting skills. Maybe I will in the future!

You take many exceptional photos of nature; it's evident that you have a very close relationship with it. How has nature affected the way you look at life?

Thank you so much, that is very inspiring to hear! I have been very close to nature all of my life. I loved being out playing as a kid, climbing trees, running around in the forest, creating tree houses and so on. I don't think that is the reason why I like to take photos of nature though. I've grown up in a small town, with not too many people to take photos of, so I've turned my inspiration towards nature instead. Nature is not a human that you need to ask permission of to take its picture. You don't need to talk or start conversations to take photos of skies and mountains. Also, I live in a very weather-rich place, and I simply can't help but to take photos of it. I simply can't let it be un-photographed.

In addition to being a photographer, you're also a talented 3D artist and filmmaker. How have these other skills influenced you as a photographer?

Actually, it is more the other way around! Photography is a lot about composing images and making something look visually appealing. I started working with digital art and 3D, because with softwares I had the opportunity to create anything I could imagine, and then "photograph" it. I created stuff in 3D that I found visually appealing (flags, grass, trees etc) and I placed a virtual camera around, to get the best shot of what I created in 3D. With filmmaking, it was sort of a natural transition from still images to moving images. I started filming video clips of things I would normally just photograph, and I added music I liked to create these montages. Sort of like amateur, fan made music videos.

What would be your dream place to shoot in?

Iceland would be great to shoot in. I like the tundra landscape, with rocks and cliffs. Another place would be Lofoten, which is really close to where I live. It features huge, sharp mountains and narrow fjords. 

In your opinion, what's the most important element in a photo?

Light. Technically it is exactly what a photo is, but that is not my point! Light shows what the photo is of, and if the light is stunning, then to me it is a stunning photograph. It is always what compels me to take a photo too. Whenever I see amazing light, be it from the sun or from a lamp, I need to capture it.

When you're faced with a creative challenge, what do you do?

It depends if it's something I consider is important or not. If it is paid client work, then I push myself through it and try to overcome it without taking any shortcuts. If it is something I am passionate about I wring myself in distress but I am very patient and faithful with it. I let it sleep for a little bit, while doing something else, until I figure it out and can move on with it. It takes a lot of passion and patience yes. In other ways, in minor ideas, I tend to give up quite easily if I face a creative challenge. I deem it as something not for me and I let it go. It is perhaps a mix of challenge and realizing it is something I'm not passionate enough about.

What has been the toughest artistic obstacle in your life so far, and how did you overcome it?

I haven't had much of a career as a creative artist yet, so it is hard to say. I have done a few films for some clients where I had the responsibility to create a narrative and a structure behind something. Basically creating documentary-captivating videos. It took a lot of effort from me to try and create the most visual, yet interesting way to present videos in, and at the same time meet the clients demand. Then again I learned a lot from it!

In relation to the previous question, what has been your greatest achievement so far, and what did you learn from it?

This may sound very irrelevant but I think that was when I almost shortlisted in a comics competition hosted by the national newspaper. I drew a comic when I was around 16 years old, and I was mentioned amongst those who almost made it into the best 15 contributions out of 300. That was really big for me, even if it wasn't close to winning. I learned that it takes a lot of consistency and an ocean of ideas and creativity in order to create a good comics-series. Even if I won at that time, I doubt I was fit to create the amount that would have been necessary to keep it up. I realize that it is the same with films and stories in general.

What advice would you give to someone who's new to photography?

Don't blindly just follow people's advice. Always try to experiment with what feels right for you. What matters more than anything is you finding what drives you and what makes you unique. Find out what feels right and what doesn't feel right and move on in your direction.

If you had all the necessary resources to make the film of your dreams, what would it be about?

Adventures and mysteries in 18th century Norway, with lovable and warm characters.

All kinds of profound emotions exist in your photos and films. How do you want people to feel when they look at your art?

Inspired! I want people to feel that they can do anything if they consistently put their ideas into action. I also want them to feel cozy about their surroundings and environments, in order to make the most of their time.

Which artist would you love to collaborate with?

Patrick Wolf. He's an artist from the UK whose music is very earthly, human, powerful but also stylistic. It would be amazing to collaborate with him for something. 

Your self-portraits are beautifully moody. What's the most valuable thing self-portraiture has taught you?

That is exactly what I want with my self-portraits, a ”moodiness". Thank you so much for noticing that! I think taking self-portraits has taught me to find what is visually appealing in portraits. Not because of who you take photos of, but the placement of your models. This is something I have great use of in filmmaking. I love finding compositions where characters fit. I think in general my self-portraits has made me more comfortable with framing and taking portraits of others too.

You've created many stirring works of art over the years. If your younger self saw all of your accomplishments, which one would impress him the most?

Thank you, that is a really interesting question! I think perhaps it would be one of my newest short films. Or maybe the animation film I did in the University. I had really high ambitions when I was a kid though, so I might have barely impressed myself!

About the Interviewer: Sebastian Siggerud is a photographer, 3D artist, and filmmaker from Norway.