Interview, Niklas Porter -
a Flight into Aloneness
Niklas! Do you enjoy being alone?
I have always enjoyed being alone and feelings of solitude. For me, solitude can stimulate creativity and is a peaceful state of mind. I am a very contemplative person, I think a lot, and need alone time to clear my thoughts. I am also not a very social person it takes a long time for me to open up to new people.
At times though I can get this feeling of panic and feel very lonely. I guess that is where aloneness turns into loneliness. There are many definitions of loneliness but one I really like is “loneliness is the longing for connection”. Contemplation about loneliness is not new of course and I think it is a fundamental part of being human. Acknowledging, accepting and understanding this is something that I personally am working on and something I’m drawn to when making photos. I find that stories of aloneness or loneliness are the most interesting ones.
I understand that sometimes you cannot differentiate between the qualities of aloneness or loneliness. From what I have known, loneliness is a gap which wants to be filled, but nothing can fill it because it’s a misunderstanding in the first place. Is that how you feel at times, a need for the other?
For me I feel differentiating between aloneness and loneliness is not easy. I believe aloneness is the state of being alone without being lonely whereas loneliness is a state marked by isolation. Even though there is this distinction I find it difficult to know where one ends and the other begins. It is hard to put into words but I feel that it is not as simple as the definition implies and that the two are intertwined. But that might just be me overthinking and overcomplicating things. I like your way of describing loneliness. I agree that there is a gap which wants to be filled and if something can fill it or not I don’t really know. If it is a misunderstanding in the first place or there may be something out there to fill it is I guess what I am trying to find out.
I think (hopefully without sounding too pretentious) that we all have some degree of existential loneliness and maybe the gap which wants to be filled is just understanding what it is to be you. We are all separate people never to be fully understood but the acknowledgment and acceptance of this maybe are what makes us less lonely in the end. Who knows…
Since you are attracted to alone subjects or landscapes with some-to-none human presence. Can that be an indication that your work is becoming a tool for you to accept your aloneness?
I started really getting into photography about 4 years ago as it was a personal search for an emotional outlet. Looking through my work this common theme of subjects that are alone and landscapes with some-to-none human presence I think is subconscious decisions what I am drawn to or interested in.
I wouldn’t say it is accepting aloneness but accepting or rather acknowledging loneliness. Photography has been the best and probably the only tool for me to try and accept, acknowledge and understand what it means to be lonely.
When I look at your work, I see you painting through the film with landscapes and places - but they all seem to have a story too. How do you bring a story out of an image where nothing is happening - without making any of it repetitive?
I’m so glad that you see this when you look at my work. To be honest I really don’t know how a story is brought out where nothing is happening. I guess that it is my personal perspective where the story is created. Feelings and memories come together, often subconsciously I think, and form some kind of fragmented narrative.
…can you tell us more about what all goes into a photograph you create?
I like to not have any preconceived thoughts or ideas of what I want to do when making photos, I want them to come to me instead while I’m out walking around. Sometimes I photograph something not knowing what will come out of it and sometimes I know exactly what I see before I photograph it.
After I finish a roll of film I send it away to get developed. When I get it back the first thing I do is scan. Once everything is scanned I like to take my time and just look through the photos. One of the main reasons I choose to shoot with film is there is always a period of time between making the photo and seeing it after being scanned. Looking through them I am reminded how I felt at the time when I took the photo. As for post-processing, it really depends on the image and the feeling or memory I get when looking back at that specific moment. Sometimes I adjust certain colors and the overall tone to better reflect a feeling or memory. Sometimes I don’t adjust anything.
I can imagine working with light at night, which appears to be your preferred time to shoot lately, can be very tough. How do you work with light, which gets even trickier with film?
Lately, I’ve been really drawn to shooting at night and very early in the mornings. Everything slows down during those hours and the feeling of aloneness or loneliness becomes more prominent. There is also something mysterious and unnerving about the night. I really like that there is little light at night and using whatever artificial light sources that I find. I really don’t think it is trickier working with film at night, I meter more for the highlights and usually, the shots are then exposed the way I want them to be. I believe that film really captures night colors/light in a beautiful and pleasing way.
Another thing that I am curious about, just because some of your photographs have a mood that can be widely interpreted towards the darker or melancholic side of it, what’s your original intention? Where do you want to lead your viewer?
That’s correct, my personal intention with most of my photos are to be interpreted towards the darker and melancholic side of things. Just as I am drawn to understanding aloneness and loneliness and am also drawn to darker and melancholic moods. I have my own personal intentions with each image in which I hope leads or suggests the viewer towards my intended feeling or memory. But to me, the meaning of art really resides in the viewer. People see different things. I find the thought of other people interpreting what I make very interesting and cool.
…how you have chosen to express yourself, the aesthetic that you have developed by the movies you went to growing up?
How I choose to express myself and the aesthetic I’ve developed is constantly evolving as I grow and experience new things. I believe that everything that touches us leaves a mark. Cinema is one thing that has been and continues be a big source inspiration. Recently I’ve been very much inspired by David Lynches surreal and elusive vision and directors like Wong Kar-wai, Wim Wenders, Sofia Coppola and movies like Blade Runner (the original one).
Before I ask you the last question, what kind of music do you have on your playlist?
Music is also a big inspiration! Most songs on my playlist reflect what I am feeling when making photos. Some favorites are Leonard Cohen, Radiohead, Bon Iver, Pearl Jam, The Knife and Fever Ray.
Lastly, what would you suggest or share with other photographers?
Take anything that makes you feel something use it when making photos. Don’t worry about what the viewer will think, do it for yourself!
Interview with Niklas Porter