Belonging and sense of place, or the lack of it, is expressed in place-conscious art. Per Berntsen is one of Norway’s most respected practitioners of fine art photography and has an extraordinary eye for revealing the nature of culture in modern place-making.
Early in his career, Berntsen worked with landscape photography in the romantic tradition, influenced by American photographers like Edward Weston and Ansel Adams. After 1985, landscape photography had become routine and quite boring. Then he discovered New Topographics, which is a tradition and movement in photographic art named after the 1975 exhibition New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape in New York. Berntsens first work inspired by New Topographics was a project in 1987 together with three other photographers called Norsk Landskap, 1987 based upon a journey through Norway, actually covering most of Norway within three weeks in June that year. The result of the project was exhibited at Henie Onstad Art Centre at Høvikodden outside of Oslo. The photos are now at Preus Museum in Horten.
Topography is a word from geography and refers to the detailed and accurate description of a place, city, town, district, state, parish, or tract of land. As a tradition of photography, it adopts an objective approach to reality by viewing photography as a tool for creating catalogues and documents of reality; the man-made landscape or the human and social constructions and alterations of landscape. This tradition of photography avoids subjective themes of beauty and emotion and the traditional subject matter of landscape photography. The core of the subject matter is to reveal the tension between nature´s nature, as it is created through nature’s own agency and intent, and culture’s nature, as it is expressed through modernist architecture and industrial place planning. By doing this, this art also question the view of nature in modern societies. This quote by Nicholas Nixon from the New Topographics group sums up Berntsen´s project:
“The world is infinitely more interesting than any of my opinions concerning it”.
Berntsen´s website can be found at http://www.perberntsen.com/