One of the best known modern landscape photographers, Per Bak Jensen is rightfully considered as one of the pioneers of the field. This Danish master is truly exceptional since he never manipulates his pictures once they have been taken. The photographs show nature’s true state, depicted through very polished, yet untouched images. It is essential for him to catch a certain timelessness which, in his own words, captures “the being of places”. Working from a hunch, a feeling that there is something hidden, he attempts to discover it – however, it can’t be transcribed into words – and that is the main reason Bak Jensen chose photography as his primary medium of artistic expression, so he could show (or at least try to) the very being of places, without overemphasizing their metaphorical presence or imposing any particular ideological perspective.
Biography – Personal Life, Exhibitions, Collections
In 1973, Per Bak Jensen married Susanne Høj, the daughter of photographer Ebbe Høj. He tried out various professions, until, at the age of 30, he began to study at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. The artist completed his studies in 1986 and was the first to graduate using photography as his only art form. Between 1986 and 2009, he worked as an Associate professor at The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, Copenhagen, where he inspired numerous Scandinavian artists through his unique photographic working methods and process. Per Bak Jensen had exhibited his work throughout the world, both as a solo artist and as part of group shows. He has been the subject of several documentaries, including the Per Bak Jensen – en fotograf by Steen Møller Rasmussen and Plagiat Film (1991); the 10 Kunstarter: Kunstfotografiet by Martin Lund and Copenhagen Broadcast (1996); the Fotografi by Steen Møller Rasmussen and Plagiat Film (2006). His works are held in many prestigious museums and institutions, such as Arken Museum for Moderne Kunst, Ishøj, Denmark; Bibliothéque Nationale, Paris, France; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA; The Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA, and many others. He was awarded the Eckerberg’s Medaljen in 2005 and Thorvaldsen Medaljen in 2015.
Per Bak Jensen wants the capture the being of places
Per Bak Jansen – The Approach to Photography and Why He Takes Photographs
“Sometimes I feel that there’s more than I can see. There’s something hidden in my surroundings when I’m looking around. I can’t put that something into words. I can’t describe it in words. So instead I’ve chosen to photograph it. When you see some of my photos, I don’t know if you’ll see the hidden things. But what you do see is the places where I’ve felt that something was hidden – and that reaches out to me and somehow wants to contact me.” Whether it’s spiritual or something entirely different, Bak Jensen is unable to transcribe it with words. That’s why he chose photography as his primary medium of expression. Driven by a strange desire to take photographs and strange desire to look at them, the photographer feels compelled to study the forces of nature. And that desire might or might not be an expression of the view from before we lost our innocence. He thinks that art, theology, and scientific theories are perhaps things that not only create something new but remind us of the things we’ve forgotten. That’s when he finds himself at a loss for words. He gets lost in his own words and that’s why he takes photographs.
He’s always searching for something hidden, something that can’t be expressed with words
Transforming Banality into Masterpieces
Although many of his pictures can undoubtedly be described as beautiful and harmonious, at least in a formal sense, there is a noticeable absence of romanticism and a certain obsessive precision and coolness of approach that one might more readily associate with the Düsseldorf School. Bak Jensen’s art is the result of long periods of close observation and reflection, using the camera to hint at unseen relationships within the image and inviting the viewer to attempt to solve the puzzle of how reality is constructed. For him, it is about looking for the signs in the world that unlock the truth of reality. These signs may be less obvious in man-made environments, but they are there. One of the world’s most famous landscape photographers, Per Bak Jensen pioneered a landscape photography approach that does not merely rely on the capacity of the medium to evoke aesthetic experience but also stresses the idea or concept behind the image.
Per Bak Jensen lives and works in Vemmetofte, Denmark.
- Meyer P. S., Per Bak Jensen, Kunstindeks Danmark [February 4, 2017]
- Wagner M.-C., Per Bak Jensen – The Presence of the Absent (2015), Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art [February 4, 2017]
- Drake D., Near and Far: Landscape Photographs by Per Bak Jensen at 12 Star Gallery (2012), London, Aesthetica Magazine [February 4, 2017]
Featured image: Per Bak Jensen – portrait (detail) – Image via galleryhip
All other images courtesy of Galleri Bo Bjerggaard