In 2001, after working with the international agency Image Bank / Getty Images for 13 years, as partner in Image Bank Norway and as an international photographer, Norwegian photographer Terje Rakke established his own photo agency. Its specialty is photography from Norway and Scandinavia. Here we present a portrait of a Norwegian star photographer.
Terje has also participated in several public art decoration projects for hospitals, organizations, companies, airports and contributed to Norway’s World Expo pavilions in Lisboa, Portugal 1998, Shanghai, China 2010 as well as Yeosu, South-Korea 2012.
He has performed audiovisual solo exhibitions with specially composed sound settings and music by Knut Halmrast: Havlandskap 1990 , Storm & Stille 1995 , Eksistens / Akershus Castle 1999 – 2000 , Vendt mot Havet 2009 – 2011.
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Impressed by his photographic skills, Daily Scandinavian wanted to share a portrait of Terje with our readers, and we appreciate that he took time and effort to answer our questions.
Hi Terje, first of all, thank you very much for agreeing to do this interview.
You founded your company Nordic Life in 2001. Can you tell us a little about why and how?
After 10 years of working as a freelance photographer and artist for former Image Bank (now Getty Images) I was ready to create my own agency in order to choose for myself what images should be published through my own collection and website of imagery, nordiclife.com .
Clients in Norway and Scandinavia were requesting more imagery with a Nordic style and with Nordic looking people acting as models.
Everything I had learned as a photographer active in the international arena since 1988 proved valuable, as we laid the foundation of Nordic Life Photography. Just the task of providing a good search system required an astonishing amount of work.
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Were you formally educated in photography, or are you self-taught?
I was educated in photography for 2 years at Sogn high school in Oslo.
Who have you learned the most from?
I was first working in a photographic company in Oslo called Color Graphics which was serving AD agencies with imagery for AD campaigns. I did learn a lot related to professional photography and also custom animation. After 3 years I became independent and started my own photographic business moreover within advertising photography.
What camera do you use the majority of the time?
I have always been a Nikon photographer. At the time when you do discover equipment that is always working properly and you can trust in most conditions, it has never been an idea for me to change from Nikon. I have probably worn out 10-12 Nikons along with my career.
You have an impressing client list. What’s your secret?
I have always been building stone by stone and in the end you have built a kind of monument that is recognizable and visible. With a dose of courage, energy and confidence one may be able to catch the most sought clients. It takes for sure a while to become a recognized location photographer.
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If you can only have one lens for the rest of your life, what would it be?
It would probably be a Nikkor 24 – 70 mm lens, as long as the quality is optimal. For sure a telephoto and superwideangle lens would pretty soon be missed and needed.
How would you define your personal style if any?
Keeping it all clean and simple is often a great challenge. Light and color need to become carefully reconciled. Keeping big attention to catch models’ natural expression. Looking for magic moments with something rare, unusual, awesome, different or magnificent to expose. You have to be willing to swim against the current to reach the source. Guided by the power of color and light. My passion is to convey the innate value of our cultural heritage and tradition, while bearing in mind a sense of form and aesthetics. The remnants of our past cast light on our surroundings and who we are, and enable us to see our own lives in a greater context.
You need to bring what you need and you never know what you really need ahead of your shoot/trip. So every lens accessory from micro and 12 mm to 600 mm is fine. Reflectors, flashes and lamps may be needed.
Do you have any thoughts about B&W versus Color photography?
My force, strength and clearly fingerprint is working elaborately with colors and light. These days it is trendy to remake color imagery to black and white and also to shoot in B & W. I did remake some of my color photographs to B & W and sepia for my main international distribution and publishing partners Getty Images in USA and Plainpicture in Germany.
Which photo are you currently most proud of?
Having nature as my source of reference, I never tire of exploring the text that is written therein. My cooperation with international agencies gives me confidence that my very next photograph just might take the world by storm. My best selling image of an executive hurdler has sold 450 times worldwide.
You’re constantly traveling the Nordic countries taking photos. What are your favorite subjects and locations?
Even though I was born and bred in southeast Norway, I am very proud that our image collection includes more photographs from the magnificent and vast northern Norway, than from southern Norway. My life as a treasure hunter and adventurer has given me the opportunity to seek out those themes that are closest to my heart. My extended journey through spectacular landscapes and cultural heritage has taught me how vulnerable the heritage on this planet is to human intervention. I want my source of imagery to be an instrument, a fine-tuned voice, that can be accessed from every corner of the world. My wish is that nordiclife.com should be a place for inspiration and contemplation. Though I did name my collection Nordic Life with a Norwegian touch, the collection is today about imagery from many different countries like Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, England, Scotland, France, Italy, Spain, Croatia, Montenegro, Hungary and Greece.
The focus on seeking and creating art of work itself is the strive, inspiration and motivation, no matter whether the subject is people, nature, culture, animals, architecture, underwater, stillife or urban jungles. Physical activity and the joy of mastering the challenges I set for myself were always my strongest spurs and aspirations during my childhood years. I have never been looking much at other photographers work. Probably a good idea if you are focused on creating your own style and living source. Music to me is important, poetry and popular space- and natural sciences are always inspiring and valuable to fill my work of life. My constant amazement of life in all its many forms causes me to pose questions about color and light, biology and geology, the elements and building blocks, harmony and equilibrium, time and space, our senses and thought processes.
Favorite photography website?
plainpicture.com, where I am also represented with 9.000 photographs.
Top tip for any aspiring photographers out there?
If you aim to become a top professional/international photographer you may need to practice physical training like any other sports athlete. Simply because catching the magnificent moments with a camera is at least equally concentration and focusing demanding as to perform on a sports arena. You simply have to win the competition on the marketplace out there to succeed. Years as a creative photographer have taught me that there is no easy road to success. To live an exciting and varied life on the go is dependent on a solid dose of will and faith.
And finally, please write a short message to anyone who looks up to your style, with a few words of wisdom.
My photographic art must reflect – and reflect upon – what I stand for as a human being. The main focus of my journey has been to search for subjects that capture everyday life in exciting and remarkable ways. Whether I walk, crawl, climb, run, cycle, sail, row, kayak, swim, dive, skate, ski or am standing still, my goal is to capture images of substance and intensity.
The key to achievement in this profession is to have the will to search long enough and hard enough, and to develop the ability to see and discover remarkable moments and exciting juxtapositions. Being able to make a living by doing what I love most is a privilege so great that I have never taken it for granted. In my view it is a blessing to be allowed to document to the world that I am a part of it. We live in a time when there are many pressing questions, and perhaps we will find some key answers. Each in our own way, we are searching for ourselves – our identity, our dreams and our future.
To know your heritage is to know yourself, and Europe is a part of the world with rich and colorful history. Our cultural heritage consists of far more than old buildings and building methods, traditional handicrafts and storytelling, music and dance, the subtle language of the cultural landscape and song of dialects. The knowledge of roots, our local and national history and culture, is a vital factor in forming each one of us as individuals. Ever since I was a little boy, I needed a dream that felt alive. I once learned that the worst thing a man can do is not to follow his dream.
Thanks again Terje.
Read more about Terje in Nordic Life Magazine
All images, copyright Terje Rakke / Nordic Life
Portrait of a Norwegian Star Photographer, interviewed by Tor Kjolberg