“Actually I find 99% of all photography dull and boring, including my own pictures, but still I can’t stop doing it. It’s like hunting, one day I will take a really good picture. Hopefully.”
Paul S. Amundsen is a Norwegian photojournalist, how also works on his own documentary and conceptual projects. Born in 1976, he has a passion for photographic storytelling. Paul S. Amundsen started to take pictures at a young age, but never had a proper photographic education. He has mastered photography the autodidact way.
Among his most remarkable series is one called “A Memoir of a Boy”. In moving black and white images, Paul S. Amundsen tells the story of a young Philippine transsexual, who shortly before the operation that would change her life, said:
“I was born a boy, but I want to die as a woman.”
A video-slideshow of “A Memoir of a Boy – In Search of a Normal Life” by Paul S. Amundsen can be seen on Vimeo.
Interview with Paul S. Amundsen
Paul, what was your first camera and photographic experience?
I was five years old when I stole my mother’s lousy Kodak 110 film camera and took some weird pictures. Later I borrowed my older brother’s Canon SLR, which I bought when I was 14.
Why did you become a photographer?
To begin with, I did not believe, photography would be my profession. It was a hobby and something I really loved. I began making photo stories while I studied social science at the University of Bergen. As a student, I made several documentaries in black and white and they caught some newspaper editors’ attention. I began freelancing for newspapers and magazines and after some years I realized that my hobby had become my job.
What does photography mean to you?
A lot. I think about photography every day, every hour. It’s something I really love and hate. Actually I find 99% of all photography dull and boring, including my own pictures, but still I can’t stop doing it. It’s like hunting, one day I will take a really good picture. Hopefully.
Which photographer has inspired you most and why?
There are many, especially from the Nordic countries, but if I have to name one it must be Lars Tunbjörk. He captures everyday life in an extraordinary way.
Your favorite photography quote?
The most important piece of equipment after the camera is a good pair of shoes.
How would you describe your photographic style and way of working? How do you realize a shooting?
My starting point is always storytelling documentary photography. I want to spend time with people, create a connection and wait for moments that tell a story. However, many assignments are short-term, which means my own, personal projects are much more profound and less drained by compromises.
What’s important in order to develop an own photographic style and how did you achieve it?
I’m not sure that I have a photographic style yet. My approach is to create separate bodies of work that are different in both style and language. Some of my works are conceptual, but always based on documentary photography. I don’t want to stuck my self into one specific photographic style. Maybe when I’m 50.
What qualities does a good photographer need?
Passion and dedication to photography is mandatory.
What does a photo need to be a great photo in your eyes?
When a photography of something ordinary becomes extraordinary, like some pictures by Lars Tunbjörk, Joel Sternfeld, and William Eggleston.
Where do you draw inspiration from for your photographic projects?
I find every day life in Norway very fascinating. We are kind of living in a self-centered bubble.
How do you keep up to date with new developments in photography, to keep on learning new things?
I look at pictures in photo books and online, and I read print newspapers. Technology is quite disturbing.
Digital or analog?
What kind of photography equipment and photographic supplies do you use?
For my own projects I use a full frame DSLR with 35mm and 50mm lenses.
What’s your favorite website on photography?
“Lens Blog” by The New York Times.
Which advice would you give someone who wants to become a professional photographer?
Ask yourself: Would I be a really good teacher or a nurse? If the answer is yes, don’t try to become a professional photographer.