Jonas Normann

We sat down (digitally, since Jonas lives in Vejle, Denmark) to talk with Jonas Normann, a photographer and filmmaker who has made a range of short films, including this one about Joe Aguirre. He had a lot to say on his inspiration to his methods for developing the unique photography series "Free Bird".


Where do you find inspiration for your work?

A big part of the inspiration for my work goes way back. As a boy, my dad used to film my brother and I all the time on a 8mm Canon514XL. From an early age, I learned the most important thing in the world is to document memories. To collect moments and save them for the future. 

I'm 37 years old and I have several hours of my childhood documented on 8 mm film and of course 35 mm film. Everything from birthdays, old family members, my parents divorce, and weird vacations. Those films are so real to me. And my dad preserved the film very well. I even remember my dad editing film late at night, along with all the effort he put into getting the film just right.

When I was a teenager I started filming fun stuff with my friends and making small stories, on whatever old video camera I could borrow from my dad when we visited him. I still have all the tapes. Hi8, DV and Mini DV. It's insane to watch! You are all limitless and creative when you are young. And with no internet platform such as Instagram, YouTube and Facebook to share our stuff back in the 90's, we really went nuts and let all our craziness and feelings flow. It was only us and our friends who got to see see it. No audience really!

When I was 20 I started still photography school. That was before digital cameras were good enough for professional use. Everything was film and darkroom. I had a great year, but I dropped out because I was young and was more interested in parties and having fun with friends. I gave up on photography for maybe 5 years. But in my mid 20's I started shooting again and my main inspiration began to form around a love for that imperfect and organic feel that 8 mm film produced. It's so esthetic and beautiful to watch because it just takes you right back! I'm sure it's the main reason why I produce film and documentaries today for a living. I'm trying to bring these same feelings into everything I do with photography and film.  

I like to keep things real. And I don't like things that are too pretty.

How did you come up with the process for your most recent photography series in Analog Series 1?

Working in the photography and film industry today is hard work. It takes all my time. And I often feel that I'm losing my soul to corporate work to make a living. I shouldn't be complaining. It's a luxurious problem! And I know it's super important to keep pushing the limits. I'm beginning to say no to more corporate jobs now and make more work that I actually like. It pays less, but I feel happier. And get less distracted. But it's hard because I have to make a living. Whenever I shoot stills today I'm challenging myself as much as possible. 


The idea for my series "Free Bird", featured in Analog Series 1, came a couple of years ago. I had read about wet plate photography after Filip Pielesiak from Poland showed it to me (he's much more skilled in this emulsion game than I am and he make some really fine stuff! Mostly large format photos) and I was thinking about taking it up. But instead I got started with liquid emulsion and just loved the look and the grittiness of it. Liquid emulsion is much sharper because you can shoot with any type of film camera and with much higher iso. And all film formats. When I restrict myself to one camera I feel like it's just another rule and I really don't like rules in photography.

I just like to play with it and I feel that this form is great for expressing feelings. It's impossible to make two similar prints They will all be very unique. I use Foma Emulsion which is very contrasty.  The 4 photos are 4 different formats and are shot on half frame, 35mm, medium format and 4x5 black and white film. Plus with liquid emulsion you can basically print on everything. Glass plates, metal, wood etc. So for this series, I printed on heavy water color paper with good structure.

My series is called "Free bird" because it's a wake up call to myself! And I need to wake up and find myself again. Like I said about always being so involved in corporate photography with no time to express what's important. I've been like a candle burning on both ends for too long, wanting to do everything at the same time. 

I guess we all want to fly away sometimes and do what's good for ourselves, instead of being free birds in cages only doing things to please other people.

Anyway - the world is insane and beautiful all at once. 

Do you have any favorite artists at the moment you can point us to?

I have so many artists that inspires me. I can't pick one out. Jacob Holdt "American pictures" (My biggest hero since I saw his photos in and met him in year 2000). 

And there is Hannah Modigh. Plus Chris Fedor, Joe Aguirre, Austen Zombres, Christoffer Lunøe, Jan Grarup, and Lærke Posselt.

How is the art scene in Denmark right now?

The art scene in Denmark is great. There's a lot of free thinkers. In Vejle, where I live, the art scene is not big. It's more like an underground thing and I love the people here who do things their own way without a big audience. We have some great photographers and film makers in Denmark. That's where my biggest attention is. 

Truth be told though I love all kinds of art, as long as it blow me away.

How did you get your start as an artist?

I became a professional photographer 7 years ago and was able to met people with the skill set. And then suddenly I began to meet a lot more people because I found this was a great platform. I did a film here in Denmark about my city. A tribute to the city. It was a dark film. Not a corporate thing. It ended up opening a bunch of opportunities and gave me a lot of work. Both corporate, but also selling prints and making documentaries. 

What can we look forward to next?

More documentaries and more photos. I want to make a book. Maybe some series of zines.