Brown Owl Press Dispatch #1
Hello folks, this is our first newsletter of 2020. We're going to be running a semi-regular email called the Brown Owl Press Dispatch that will have interviews with photographers/curators/writers, photobook Q&As and anything else we can think to do. This content will be exclusive to the newsletter, but will eventually (six months down the line) by archived on our Tumblr. Social media is increasingly difficult to get people to look at, mostly there's just SO much of it and the networks are increasingly requiring sponsored posts. Maybe this will slow things down. And Brown Owl Press is definitely about slowing things down. The mail outs won't come more than every two weeks so don't worry about being spammed. This feels a good way for Brown Owl Press to stay visible despite the fact we only publish a few titles a year. If there's anyone you think we should interview just drop us a line.
Our first interview is with Denmark-based photographer Andreas Olesen
Introduce yourself! Who are you, where do you come from and what do you do?
Greetings! It’s strange how this simple question is almost always the hardest to answer. My name is Andreas Olesen, and I was born in San Francisco in 1981. I lived in both Denmark and the US as a child, but can probably best describe myself as an American with a strong connection to Denmark, although on paper I am both. I’ve been a photographer working towards artist for 21 years now.
What are you working on right now?
I’m working on finding balance right now. I became a father almost 2 years ago, and self employed about 3 years ago, so I’m still trying to figure out how to make survival money, to be with my family and to have space for making art. Making art is the stepchild of this situation, so I’m trying to figure out how to properly adopt this child and bring it into the equation on equal footing.
In concrete terms I’m working on two different art projects right now, I always have 2-3 projects in various states going at the same time. I would like to make the next version of Oblique, and I’m working on a collaborative project about science education and the sky.
Andreas Olesen - The Looking Past
Do you feel connected to the fine art/photography scene in Copenhagen?
It’s actually hard for me to place myself in the art scene, because in a lot of ways I’ve gotten quite deep into it, but I can’t say that I’ve broken through either. I’ve worked professionally in the art world for more than 10 years, so I have a pretty strong network, but that isn’t the same as being seen as an artist. I definitely recommend to anybody who wants to make art for a living to familiarize themselves with the art world via job/network, but at the same time it can be tough to switch roles in peoples eyes. So I’ve gotten in there pretty good, but still have a long way to go.
Is there anything you wish you'd known when you were first starting out?
Oh man, I’m not a regrets person, but I have had to learn most of my lessons the hard way. I wish that I had really known what the role of hard work was in an artistic practice, and believed in myself a little more. I wish I had known that you have to absolutely immerse yourself in art in order to have a practice. I wish that I had been a little more dedicated when I was in art school.
Your series Oblique investigates landscapes being between states, how do you find this place? Can the viewer ever find what they're looking for?
Oblique is by far the vastest project I’ve ever made, and it’s really only just started. It started as a small side project which was supposed to fit in-between two others, but it just exploded and took completely over. I have probably between 50-100 more works which I could make for this project, and am almost paralyzed by the possibilities. It’s tough to handle as well because it is so very in-between, both visually and conceptually, which often leaves my choices up to intuition. I think at the moment it would be hard for a viewer to find resolution, but I will say it makes a lot more sense in an exhibition format, rather than as a book or online. In a way this project also underlines an invisible transfer I am making from photography to art. The next iteration of this project will certainly be more sculptural and material based. I’m not sure what the viewer might be looking for, but I hope to share what it is I’m looking for underway.
Andreas Olesen - Oblique (installation view)
What was the single biggest turning point in your artistic practice?
I’ve had a couple, but I think the biggest was when I realized that everything I had made for the previous 5-10 years was garbage, and I needed to start over. There is tremendous freedom in letting go, and I just packed it away, and moved on to other things. My work became better immediately, and the positive way to look at it is that everything thing I did before was a learning process leading me to where I am now. Don’t be afraid to drop something that isn’t working. Every single artist I know has tons of started projects and experiments which didn’t go anywhere but certainly inform their current practice. Took me way too long to figure that out.
Can you tell us about what you do with CPH Silver Lab?
CPH Silver Lab
is my day job, my lab and my attempt to unite my love and my revenue streams. Denmark is a country which isn’t very romantic about the past (at least in terms of technology), so about 15-20 years ago everybody threw their darkrooms in the trash. Lo and behold, analog is still here! Since I’ve been working with a darkroom since I started, at a certain point it became clear to me that there was a small group of interested parties here, so I opened my space as a business. So I run workshops and teach out of the lab (there is a whole new generation of people interested in wet processes!), I rent it out to those who need a work space, and I also print and produce works for artists who need help. It’s a tough biz, but so far I’ve just been able to make it work. It takes up way too much time in terms of having time for art, but I am working on my own terms for the most part, so I remind myself to be thankful. It also opens other doors, for example I now run the darkrooms at the Royal Academy of Art here in Copenhagen, all because of the lab.
Is there any artwork/music/podcasts/books you're enjoying at the moment.
Artists like Talia Chetrit, Roe Ethridge and Torbjørn Rødland are blowing my mind right now, and inspiring my future work. I wish I could say that I knew more about music, but I’ve reached a time in my life where I have no goddamn idea about music right now. Instead I’ve been taking deep dives into older stuff - right now I’m listening to Stoned & Dethroned by Nacho Picasso x Blue Sky Black Death, which is from the primitive time of around 2012. Sometimes I get really into dark, dark rap for a while. Undisputed Attitude by Slayer got my wife and I through our morning routine today, it was great.
If you could interview anyone, who would it be?
I want to get Olafur Elliasson on my podcast, but forecast for that is pretty grim.
Do you feel hopeful for 2020?
Yes and no. My brain is cynical, but my heart doesn’t seem to notice. I think I’ll have to break it down to sections:
-That my business with continue to expand: Pretty hopeful.
-The the environment will continue to burn, and politics remain a death slog: We’re fucked.
-That I will make some art: Looking good!
-That I will meet some cool dedicated people and look at some amazing art: Hell yes!
-That my life will remain pretty privileged, lucky and comfortable: Signs point to yes.
All in all, on a micro scale things are pretty good for me, and I have to remember that.
We have several books at various stages of production by Hans Nøstdahl, Isa Gelb and the long awaited title by Jenny Riffle
. It's coming, I promise!
Call for essays
There's semi-regular feature on the Brown Owl Press blog
of short essays by photographers, collectors and publishers talking about a single photobook that means a lot to them and why. If you would like to take part please email email@example.com for details.
We recently published Beware of Trains by Brian David Stevens, In Between Breakdowns by Rosie Kliskey and Framework Vol I by Al Palmer. Copies of all are still available.
Thank you for reading. If you have any questions or opinions please don't hesitate to get in touch.