The comfort zone is just that – comfortable, pleasant. It feels good to be within its borders, to feel safe and protected. However, as Christian Houge realizes, we often need to leave that safety in pursuit of ordinary life. He’s a Norwegian photographer who’s leaving his comfort zone behind, inviting the viewers to leave their own and join him on his journey, to try and see things from another perspective. Working in series, he’s widely known for his Arctic Technology, Barentsburg, Sola, Pyramid, and probably the most adventurous of them all – the Shadow Within series. It’s focused on wolves, and the artist had to undergo a course in security and body language in order to be close to them.
For twenty years, Houge has been using his photography to explore the human condition as realized and influenced by nature. A curiosity for myth and folklore is pervading his work, spurred by the Norse legends he learned when he was younger. Also, there is a particular interest in exploring themes touching upon the relationship between nature and culture. The artist addresses the taboos arising from the juxtaposition of man and environment. Through his work, the artist asks the viewers some very complicated questions: “Is nature with or against us?” and “Are we with or against nature?” His pieces, nominated for several influential awards, have been featured in The New York Times, Fotografi, Time, and could be seen in exhibitions throughout Europe, the United States, and China, where his Paradise Lost solo exhibition has toured the cities of Beijing, Wenzhou and Guangzhou.
In Arctic Technology, the photographer explores highly technical climate research installations, satellite receivers and a Global seed vault with biodiversity located at Spitsbergen – an island 78 degrees north, between Norway and the North Pole. From all across the globe, this particular vault holds the seeds of many thousands of varieties of food crops, essential to the human race. Emphasizing that beneath their contemporary and visually captivating aesthetics, there exist deeper layers of interpretation, the artist explores man and man’s creations – our extrovert search for knowledge, but also our introvert search for insight. The Barentsburg project explores a Russian coal mining community, where a strong sense of the former Soviet Empire is still very much present. In his arguably most popular series, the Shadow Within, Houge reveals man’s relation to the wolf and ultimately, to himself. Our fascination with wolves comes from the fact that they are untamed. The humans tend to see themselves in that, longing for something that the culture has taken them so far from. With thoughts that wolves represent our rawness, and without criticizing culture, the photographer finds fascinating to look at what the very culture has done to us, but also how easily we can forget our biological nature.
Fundamentally speaking, we humans are animals no different from any other type that lives on this planet. It is the culture that has made us ‘forget our true nature’, keeping our impulses, fears, and instincts in check. Interested in this phenomenon, the photographer sees nature and culture “being juxtaposed both within and without us”. Before all the identities, religions, teachers, we are nature and we have that nature within us, no matter how civilized we may become.
He is represented by Artistics.
Feature image: Portrait of the artist
All images courtesy of Artistics