Swedish born Kristoffer Axén (1984) lives and works in New York. He has studied at the ICP and was a Tierney Fellow. His work can be described as moody, atmospheric and cinematic at once. His work has been the subject of solo show at Munch Gallery in New York in 2013, and he has participated in group exhibitions in the USA, the Czech Republic, Poland, Italy, Sweden, China and Denmark. His work is included in ReGeneration2: Tomorrow’s Photographers Today, a travelling exhibition and book project highlighting exceptional emerging photographers, organized by the Aperture Foundation in 2010.
Your works have an important connection with psychology. Does this branch of science interest you as a means of creation or it has another background?
Yes, I’m very interested in psychology as a science and philosophy, but maybe more as it unfolds in one’s own life. And though I read certain psychoanalysts and writers who speak about the life of the mind as the closest or only reality, I do this more as a personal sideline rather than as an immediate resource, even though it automatically becomes this in a way. My main motive for making images is instead more related to personal experiences and what I see as undercurrents in myself and others, which is not really any different.
Tell about your work process!
I photograph kind of randomly, with staged photographs being added irregularly, which gives me a nice, big library of images which is continually growing. I then have a scenic overview of this collection of photographs, from which I select relevant ones to take into the more time-consuming editing stage. Here things get removed or added, manipulated in various ways, with the only intent being to create an image most closely resembling a state-of-mind that interests me, a subjective hinterland of sorts. And hopefully, when shown together, these will then tell a non-specific story – a tonal narrative where the details are left for the viewer to fill in.
What are the main things for you as a contemporary artist that you want to express?
I just want to make these scenes that have a certain personal, dreamlike quality to them and that at the same time express something general and collective. An underlying low-toned anxiety, an undefined wish for a kind of transcendence and maybe an appreciation for the surreality that comes with being alive.
What are your influences and mentors?
I’m influenced mostly by film and painting. The films of Béla Tarr and David Lynch, for example, or the paintings of Mamma Andersson, Michael Borremans and Tim Eitel. As regards photography, I like Todd Hido, Daido Moriyama and Antoine D’Agata, people like that.
What are you working on now?
I’m still working on images for the Events in Nature series, which are these distant, cinematic views of uncertain occurrences. But I’ve also started a new series, more monochromatic and low in tonality, which revolves around these solitary, anonymous figures moving around equally anonymously, almost in abandoned places searching for something they can’t even define. Something important is lost, but the memory of it is traumatically gone, kind of like that I think. But I’ve just started with this one so it can still go in another direction.