This Photographer Shows You the Boundaries of Your Subconscious Mind

What would happen if we could turn the camera in on ourselves, on our inner-subjectivity itself, our embodied memories and our subconscious minds? Øystein Aspelund wondered this, and sought a way to explore it with his latest iteration of an ongoing series, HIBERNATION IV.


The Trondheim-based photographer’s work grapples with the very boundaries of the ineffable, nature and culture, civilisation and the wild, human and environment. Here, it is the contrast between truth and fiction to which Øystein turns his attention.

“I believe the term ‘reality’ is always relative, like memory. The memories seem real to you, but they might still differ from the objective truth, if there actually always is one. Many times, the real world can appear more dramatic than in invented stories; truth is stranger than fiction.”
– Øystein Aspelund


We spoke to the sub-consciousness explorer to find out more.

THE PLUS: Tell us more about this series – what’s the concept?
Øystein Aspelund:
The concept of this series is to investigate sub-consciousness, and explore the sometimes grey area between truth and fiction. It is a personal project in which I use man and his relationship to the landscape as an investigative tool. Based upon real places and events, I seek to catch moments when our daily reality and our subconscious world sometimes strike each other.


TP: You’ve said photography doesn’t necessarily need to represent reality. Can you expand on that?
As a photographer, you have to be on the place of the motive, and face it, physically. This is different from other art forms, like painting or digital art. Photography is also commonly seen as a representation of reality – a documentation more or less. But a picture is a representation of a very brief moment in time. A camera can catch the light and record a place very different from how a human eye does. It places the motive into a limited two dimensional frame, meaning a whole lot is always missing. Just on this level, there can be several alterations of the motives, questioning the concept of true representation of reality.


TP: What attracts you to minimalism?
The short answer is the famous quote “less is more,” which, among other places was introduced during the modernism movement in architecture. It can be a hard challenge, but if this ideal is applied properly, it will usually have a great impact on the viewer.

TP: What’s life like in Trondheim, Norway?
Trondheim is one of the biggest cities in Norway, but for common people it is probably barely a town. The many students fuel it with energy, particularly before and after semesters. It might be small place, but still have a lot of the elements you should be able to find in a good city. To me, it provides a great base, either to go out hiking in the nature, or for doing roadtrips. It also has a reasonably direct access to arctic Norway, which I enjoy a lot.


TP: Do you have a favourite image from the series?
In this chapter of the series, I have no single favourite. The idea, among other things, is to build a mystic and unique atmosphere through an almost cinematic narrative style. All the images play an important role in this. But the most memorable image to create, however, was probably the one from the cave. It was shot deep down in a remote cave somewhere above the Arctic Circle. I was enormous, with its own indoor glacier. It felt like stepping into an enormous dark freezer.


TP: What time of day do you go out to shoot in order to get this kind of light?
It depends a lot on the time of the year I am shooting. Up here, there are huge differences in the daylight between the seasons. To get my results would normally mean that I primarily shoot during the winter, because summer might be too bright. The Ideal situation, however, is the blue hour with some heavy cloud cover.


TP: What can we expect to see in HIBERNATION V?
I have not started on it yet, so that is difficult to answer! But hopefully more of the same, without repeating myself too much. If I feel I am doing the same all over again, it might be time to end the series and focus on new ideas.