Henriette Sabroe Ebbesen is a Danish photographer who sets her practice at the intersection between science and art. Through reflections and distortions, her shots represent small scientific experiments that lead the observer to reflect on the different views and interpretations that an image can generate, asking questions about what can be defined as real.
We asked Henriette to reveal some curiosities about the winning shot of the Liquida Grant’s “NEW EYES” Award which, in addition to the latest edition of Liquida Festival in Turin, will be hosted at Collater.al Photography 2023 in Milan in September.
Your practice often includes distortions and reflections to challenge the viewer’s perception. In this shot, you seem to push that notion even further. How did you make the shot? Where was it taken?
The shot was taken in Spring 2019 in a huge grass field with a blue sky. My Friend Emma is the model. She is sitting on a huge mirror while holding a globe-sized silver ball. The image is taken into the mirror, so that the main part of the image is her reflection. Afterwards I’ve turned the image upside-down. This means that the legs you see in the bottom of the image are her real legs, while the rest of her body and the silver ball are from the reflection in the mirror.
Your shots are mainly taken in outdoor settings: is there a specific reason why you prefer natural environments?
The nude body and nature are elements that we know from the natural world. I find it interesting to place these objects in a surreal context as it creates a clash between something familiar and something odd. Geometrical structures and physical laws can be seen and discovered in the natural world around us. This is to me so fascinating, that it seems surreal. According to The Theory of Relativity you can bend space and time. You can argue this is in a way what I illustrate with my distortions by literally bending light rays with mirrors.
The weather is very important in my work, as I almost always shoot outdoors with strong sunlight and a blue sky. In this way the colors will appear the most vibrant and beautiful to me. On the technical side, I would need a huge studio in order to complete the works with all the reflections, as I don’t want the ceiling to be reflected for example. I think I also stay more true to my concept by creating the works in the real world rather than in a studio.
The female body is often the subject of stereotyped narratives. How can your “distortions” contribute to a breakdown of these preconceptions? How do you choose your models?
So many women including myself have a distorted view on their bodies, which has often been caused by society and the mass media. With my series “Feminine Development” I wanted to discuss this topic and celebrate the beauty of female sexuality, the female body, and its capability of giving birth. Using the mirrors to manipulate the body in this series serves to illustrate how we slowly move away from reality merging with a surreal, parallel world where it is questionable what a natural body looks like. I like my models to be “normal” people because they represent real and natural bodies. My models are most of the time my friends or family. It makes it more personal, and I like having an already established bond with the model I shoot. We also have a lot of fun and good talks while shooting.
You have also photographed pregnant women, a very delicate phase in the life of every woman: how does your approach change when shooting in front of these subjects?
Well I think not too different, but I approach all my models with a lot of respect, of course. I’m very grateful to them for helping me create the images. In regards to pregnant women I think more carefully of their well-being during the shoot, as they may be more limited physically than usual.