Last week my new exhibition 'A New Me' opened at one of the best photography museums in Northern Europe; Fotografiska, The Swedish Museum of Photography.
In the company of struggling people, the forces of nature pulsate between magnificent pink rocks that have been rounded by the ravages of time. The people are participants in one of Utah's many so-called "Fat Camp's" where new guests are constantly checking in for a few weeks, or up to half a year, of food and exercise programmes. Weight loss camps have become well known worldwide through the TV programme "Biggest Loser".
Marie Hald, the 2018 Young Nordic Photographer of the Year has, with respect and artistic flair, captured their battle to lose weight. The exhibition A New Me is a story about people who have all been diagnosed by their doctor as being morbidly obese. A story about the struggle for survival. She has a special eye for exposing human vulnerability, without exploiting or diminishing the person being portrayed. 30-year-old documentary photographer Marie Hald from Denmark is Young Nordic Photographer of the Year 2018. "It was among other things, Marie's unique imagery with its melancholic and calm expression that caught the attention of the jury. In a close and personal way, she explores social problems and the impact of society on us in general, and women in particular”. The winner of this prestigious scholarship receives SEK 100,000, a mentor appointed by Fotografiska and a solo exhibition.
Marie Hald’s A New Me opens on June 1 and runs until September 2, and as a mentor she has the extremely respected photojournalist Paul Hansen.
– Marie Hald is so skilled that I consider it an honour, and the fact is I see her as a rewarding interlocutor, rather than it being a classic mentorship, says Paul Hansen.
Marie Hald, who in 2013 was a World Press winner and also won the Picture of the Year prize in Denmark, often focuses on the intense situations in life, when something is brought to a head. These are moments that occur in everyday life, which Hald manages to capture with both tenderness and sensitivity. This could relate to a body or a context. In her solo exhibition A New Me, she follows life in a so-called fat camp in Utah in the USA, where in a landscape of shimmering pink rock formations people are struggling to lose weight. They all have a story that explains the reason for their considerable weight gain, and their motivation to now reverse this trend. – In previous projects I have closely followed the lives of young people with anorexia and bulimia, and recently I have researched the new wave of activists who are fighting for the right to be fat. For a long time, I have had the desire to explore another side of the story of fat people. The nameless, those that are big and would like to lose weight. It became the exhibition A New Me , a study of the phenomenon of weight loss camps, which are especially popular in the United States, a country where much of the population is overweight, explains Marie Hald. In the United States there is a whole industry for weight loss in the form of slimming products, weight loss-cookbooks, and slimming clothing etc. But it is special weight loss camps, which became well known through the TV series "The Biggest Loser", which Hald has found interesting to study and describe. Hald travelled to the state of Utah in Western USA, which is known for being a kind of health hub. This is mainly due to the large group of Mormons living in the state, who have a strong focus on health. The camp she visited, Movara Fitness Resort, has also previously been part of the Biggest Loser concept. Here she shared and followed the everyday lives of a group of women and men who checked in to start a process of weight loss. Common to all of them is that they have been diagnosed by their doctors as being morbidly obese.
– With my photographs I want to get close to the different people who live at the camp, and who are struggling to lose weight. All the people I have met have a dramatic story, and there is always a reason why they have become very fat. This may be due to a life crisis - divorce or death, as well as diseases that make it difficult to maintain a low weight. I think it is important to tell these stories - especially because fat people often face many preconceptions of why they have become fat, such as they are lazy and unintelligent etc. During this project, for example, I have met lawyers, dentists and social workers who have taken themselves to a weight loss camp in order to gain control of their body.
Hald describes the driving forces behind A New Me as being connected with her previous projects, which focus on the human body and our different approaches to it. In The Girl From Malawa she portrayed girls with anorexia, who are obsessively driven to achieve their definition of perfection. In Fat Front, it was about so-called fat activists in the emerging movement of fat people fighting for the right to be happy with their bodies and to make society accept this. – Now it was time to focus on those who were extremely overweight and wanted to lose weight. The aim was to emphasise their personal stories so that you will not just see a fat body and be prejudiced about it. It is always a challenge to photograph personal stories like these. I know that many people find it an intrusion and cherish their "personal space". So I have to be incredibly sensitive and make sure I do not overstep too many boundaries. It is a balance, where I try to push the boundaries and go a little further than what in the beginning people are happy with. But not so far that they regret they opened up to me. Hald is often asked how she is able to get so close to the people she is following.
– I meet people with openness, sincerity, curiosity and considerable motivation to create a poetic story. They can see that I am sincere and passionate about what I do - and therefore they want to help me. The technique I use is analogue. It contributes to a more sedate process and prevents those I photograph being able to immediately see the picture in the camera, which is a stress factor when working digitally. Analogue photography provides much needed calmness.
My newest work on the exhibition 'a New Me' is opening soon at Fotografiska Museet in Stockholm and I'm so excited. The work is about the daily life at a weight loss camp in the USA in the state of Utah.
Press requests are beginning to roll in while I am proof printing with my favorite lab Frese and Sønner here in Copenhagen - can't wait to show the work.
For now here's a polaroid from my journey.
Last week I was so honored and happy to receive the price for Best Portrait in The Danish Picture of the Year with my photo of body activist Helene.
The award ceremony was held at The National Library of Photography in Denmark.
Award-winning documentary photographer Marie Hald from Copenhagen is the Young Nordic Photographer of the Year 2018. Paul Hansen will be her mentor. She will hold a solo exhibition at Fotografiska which will open on 31 May. “Among other things, it was Marie’s unique imagery with her melancholic and calm expression that captivated the jury. In a personal and intimate way she explores social problems and society’s impact on us in general and on women in particular.” As one of the world’s largest meeting places for photography, Fotografiska’s mission includes disseminating knowledge and experiences of photography’s infinite number of expressions and meanings. As part of this mission we have launched a new Major Documentary Photo Prize, which can be applied for by professional documentary photographers based in Sweden. Another part is our annual Young Nordic Photographer of the Year (YNP) grant, which is awarded to a young Nordic photographer.
This year’s winner, 30-year-old Danish documentary photographer Marie Hald, was selected by a renowned jury, comprising Akseli Valmunen, Zoe Christensen, Ingunn Strand, Sif Gunnarsdóttir and Johan Vikner. Of a possible score of 50 points, Marie Hald received 32, making her the 2018 Nordic Photographer of the Year. “Among other things, it was Marie’s unique imagery with her melancholic and calm expression that captivated the jury. In a personal and intimate way she explores social problems and society’s impact on us in general and on women in particular.” In 2013, Marie Hald received a World Press Photo award and the Danish Picture of the Year award. “I am very happy, surprised and excited about the prize. The Fotografiska Young Nordic Photographer of the Year award is a great opportunity for young photographers in the Nordic region and, of course, a tremendous honour. It is all very exciting. I realise that this wonderful grant will make the year a very busy one as I will hold a solo exhibition at Fotografiska, which will open this spring. It will also be a thrilling experience to have Paul Hansen as my mentor. Imagine, an entirely new person to learn from and be inspired by,” says a very enthusiastic Marie Hald, who works as a freelance documentary photographer and is based in Copenhagen.
Marie Hald applied with a photographic series documenting the daily life of a Copenhagen mother of three who works in the sex industry. “As a photographer I am driven by stories that fascinate me and arouse my curiosity. I often try and get close to people and contexts. I like to have as few filters as possible between myself and the real world, and even if I were not a photographer I would want to be involved in these areas. With the powerful tool that the camera is, I have the opportunity to highlight important issues and influence people. Possessing this power is a gift, and I am very much looking forward to putting it to good use in my exhibition at Fotografiska.” This approach to working with photography is shared by her new mentor, award-winning photographer Paul Hansen.
”Marie Hald is not in need of a mentor. Her narratives revolve around subjects focused on vulnerability. She creates intimate portraits of people, who grant her access to their lives. She has a sharp eye that is never cold. Regardless of the subject, she never deprives people of their dignity or reduces them to visual clichés. As newly appointed mentor to Marie Hald, I would like to start by saying that Marie Hald does not need a mentor. Not in the traditional sense of being a counsellor or, for that matter, a guide. Having said that, it is an honour to be able to be some kind of conversation partner on her future journey.”
Bringing these two photographers together is a great source of joy for Fotografiska. “For us at Fotografiska who live with the motto ‘To inspire a more conscious world’, it is even more gratifying when the Young Nordic Photographer of the Year shares our driving force. We are very much looking forward to curating Marie Hald’s exhibition,” says Johan Vikner, Exhibition Manager at Fotografiska.
Facts: Marie Hald Age: Born in 1987 in Aalborg. Long-time resident of Copenhagen.
Profession: Freelance documentary photographer for the Moment Agency.
Education: Attended the Danish School of Media and Journalism and ICP in New York.
I did a shoot for Euroman // Adidas presenting the new ball for the FIFA World Cup 2018 with Danish players Nicklas Bendtner and jens Stryger Larsen.
Friday September 15th The Girls from Malawa opened at Nobel's Peace Center in Oslo as a part of the exhibition Shifting Boundaries.
The 3 scandinavian artists did an artist talk with NRK's Vegard Larsen and the offical opening was by Rania Mustafa Ali who did this amazing video:
Trying out new roads as member of the panel at News & Co, Danish news programme on national television.
Watch it here:
Shot portraits for Lone Schrøder, board president of Saxo Bank.
Playing around with bestie Maria. I met Maria at ICP (International Center of Photography) in New York in 2012. She is originally a radio journalist but wanted to go in a more visual direction and is now working with films and tv.