John T. Pedersen
Interview with John T. Pedersen
BIFA 2022 Winner, 1st Place, Professional Events category, “Festival People”
Q: Tell us a little bit about your background. How did you come to fall in love with photography?
My name is John T. Pedersen (56) an independent photojournalist from Norway. I have worked as a professional photographer since 1988, and done assignments for newspapers, trade press, magazines and agencies. With focus especially on humanitarian issues during my own projects. In my everyday photography, I am affiliated with the national newspaper Dagbladet in Oslo. In 2019 I received a 1st Prize in the World Press Photo award contest, in the category Sports, Singles.
My journey in photography already started as a child. I got my first camera from my father when I was 11 years old. And became possessed right away. Later on, the interest expanded when I discovered the joy of developing the images in the darkroom. It was fascinating and exciting to observe the images come to life in the darkroom, and to the final prints.
Then I started to study photography on my own, watching magazines, books. After some years I ended up being a newspaper photographer.
For me, photography is also a hobby, a camera is always with me. As for family gatherings, photographing my grandchildren, or whatever comes up naturally along the way where I’m moving. Photography is a lifestyle I have become addicted to. Whether it’s a job or a hobby doesn’t matter. Photography is always exciting, challenging and liberating.
Q: Could you elaborate on how you took this award-winning picture? What was the main concept and what was your process for creating it?
After two years of covid and shut downs it was finally time to get back to the normal. In Oslo every year there is a big rock festival, Tons of Rock. Since I love rock music and people, I saw this as a great opportunity to document the reopening of the country, and from now on people could once again gather during major events. “When the artists take the stage, I turn my back on them”
I am more interested in photographing the personalities and life in the periphery around the concerts than the artists themselves. During music events, people become emotionally engaged. And the expressions are many. It’s exciting and necessary to get very close, they barely notice I’m there in their ecstasy.
Q: What does receiving this honor entail for you?
It is a great honor to receive such a great award, an inspiration. I am humbled to be among so many talented photographers. But it’s not just about us photographers.
It’s about the people we meet along the way, listening to their stories, documenting their lives, in good and bad, and passing these stories on. These images for me are meaningful as they show the joy and the culture people have in being together. And how people, strangers to each other, mingle with each other.
Q: What other photographers’ work, practices, or styles have had an influence on your own?
There are so many talented photographers in any genres. So it is difficult to single out any names. Some photographers are good at color, others at black and white photography. Others on documentary/news situations, and some on portraits.
As a photojournalist, you are involved in most forms of photography. But it is especially the photographers who document and tell the good and bad stories of the people who need to be heard. Like those who risks a lot by documenting what is happening in Ukraine.
Photography has a strong influence, and there are many who make an effort to share their photos to the “world”. So all the amazing photographers out there deserve attention for their photos.
Q: Photography is a great medium for communicating various messages to people. What are your thoughts on this tool and how do you use it?
Photography is a tool for visual communication. A universal language and form of expression, just like with music. A language most of us do understand. My purpose for a good photograph is to tell a story, document an event, a moment. Make the viewer stop for a minute, be left with some thoughts and questions regarding the images they are looking at. Get a certain connection to the image, a strong feeling. Hopefully they are left with the same feeling as for myself, in the moment of making the photograph.
Q: What difficulties do you think photographers face today?
The speed of endless streams of information and images on social media has become the norm. Majority of people are viewing the images on their mobile phones, and scroll through the number of images, RAPIDLY. The challenge lies in capturing people’s attention, making them curious about images that’s not a part of this random mainstream.
Printing and exhibitions are common ways of reaching out to people. Publishing images on your own website is a must to a photographer, and in this context the full control over the content. Photographs should also be viewed on the wall, in prints! I do some printing, and the pictures comes to its best here. You look at the pictures in a different way, at a slower and more considerate pace.
Q: Where do you find inspiration for your projects?
I have no particular preferences in my search for new projects. Ideas of a project can arise by just listening to a conversation between two people in a cafe. Images and stories I have seen in the past can lead to something interesting, it can be really inspiring.
Most thoughts about a project end up in an idea bank, to be put to attention and developed later on. As long as you are not looking for a concrete theme, it is somewhat random in the way how the ideas arise. The most important thing is that you really need to have a great curiosity and a genuine interest in the subject/theme you want to photograph.
Q: What would the setting be for your ideal photo shoot? Do you have any tools or accessories that you must include?
“As a photographer, it is important to show respect and humility. For me, the main tool is not my camera, but my voice. Talking to the people you meet. If you want to get close to people, you must be able to communicate. And most importantly: Being a fellow human being.” – John T. Pedersen
I bring my cameras out to people. You have to be curious and searching as a photographer. And be honest in what you are doing.
Q: What are your future plans? Are you presently engaged in any intriguing projects that you can share with us?
Nowadays, I do more of the day-to-day photography. But I am still working on planning and implementing ongoing projects.
The youth in Auschwitz is a project I have been working on since 2009. To document jewish youths and Holocaust survivors during their visiting in the camp.
I will continue to work with Moreen Ajambo (34), a mother of seven, who lives in a 6 square meter small home in miserable conditions in Kampala, Uganda. She boxes on the Ugandan women’s national team, and trains at the Rhino boxing club in Katanga, a large slum in central Kampala. Her big goal is the 2024 Olympics.
View John T. Pedersen’s Winning Work Here.