Shoot the Breeze: Tonje Thilesen

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Tonje Thilesen uses the aesthetic of film to create images that transcend the moment they were captured. Is it a trick? Sometimes it seems easy to impress people, simply because they are so used to seeing images without idiosyncratic texture that film grain can make an image seem like something sacred. So yes, it is a trick. But people do seem to have an attachment to the look that film produces, maybe to the substantive reality of light manipulating actual material (versus some kind of abstract “conversation” between algorithms). There is, however, more to Thilesen’s work than the gimmick of nostalgia: what I see is a strong inclination to represent people as they are, at their most candid, honest, and beautiful. She also has as a real brio for light and its application and personality across a spectrum of settings and moods. Finally (for the sake of this short introduction, anyways), Thilesen’s work shows an interesting ambiguity and ambivalence towards her subject matter, for example, in the shots of people from high above. It is a distance that is not purely formal, as with the temporal “distance” of film, but a personal and aesthetic choice that speaks intelligently to the insurmountable distance separating the gaze from all the forms upon which it happens to fall. 
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1. How would you describe your photos?
Cinematic and quiet. I don’t know, people say different things. Someone once told me that I “respect my subjects’ secrets” when I portray someone, and that really stuck with me.
2. Do you carry your camera with you everywhere you go?
Sometimes, sometimes not. I have a small Leica 35mm point-and-shoot that I bring with me whenever I feel adventurous in my own city.

3. What celebrity would you like to shoot most?
Malala, Lorde, Prince. Does Chelsea Manning count as a celebrity?
4. What animal would you like to be, if not a human? 
Snorlax (the pokémon).

5. What’s your current obsession? 
Coming from a family that always valued the art of cooking with local produce, I’ve become increasingly obsessed with adventurous dining experiences throughout the past few years. I stopped buying clothes so that I can afford a serious tasting menu from time to time, even if it means that I have to dine alone. To be able to create new experiences out of familiar or unfamiliar flavours is somewhat a remarkable form of art to me, and I highly respect people who understand this, or have chosen to pursue a career in the culinary. I cook a bit myself, but I often regret that I went to art school instead of culinary school.
Musically, I’ve spent a lot of time listening to Floaters by Lightning Bug, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, Sheer Mag, Colin Self, Anna Homler and Steve Moshier’s Breadwoman & Other Tales, and as always – Bing & Ruth. 
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6. Would you like to live forever?
Ha! No. But I’d like to live in as many cities around the world as I possibly can before I die.
7. What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given? 
This may sound a bit corny, but I think that showing kindness, sincerity, interest and respect in everyone you meet goes a long way. I can’t stand people who constantly feel the need to express their self-importance or relevancy, and I think we see a lot of that in the (fine) art world. So I try to stay away from that world as much as I can. I don’t think that I do anything unique or special, really, and it will probably stay that way throughout my career. But that’s fine – it makes me challenge myself. Otherwise, my friend and former photography professor, Katrin Thomas, taught me the importance of editing down my work and to look at it from a distance, in the position of a photo editor. I’m still learning, but it’s definitely made me think differently when I shoot.
8. What do you do in your spare time? 
I like to spend time alone and listen to emo records (lol). I read, and try to stay updated in political affairs. I cook. I try to spend more one-on-one time with friends I really care about.
9. Do you like having your photo taken? 
No, not particularly.
10. Which photographers do you like right now?
Judy Rogac, Izaac Enciso, Georgie Wood, Valentino Bellini. I don’t really look at other people’s photography a lot, except from photojournalists, but my memory is terrible. I’m excited to see that my friends are constantly producing incredible work, however – like Landon Speers, Daniel Dorsa, Jessica Lehrman, and Oskar Christiansson, to mention a few.