Asger Carlsen has the rare ability to manipulate perception. In black and white, the Danish-born former crime-scene photographer plays with the nature of reality, forcing us to question the often hilarious content of his imagery. In our Issue #6 interview, a snippet of which is included here, Carlsen repeatedly emphasised the importance of emotion within his work – a specific “feeling” that makes his imagery the weird and wonderful way it is…
It’s Nice That: In the back of your book Wrong it says: “Based on a true story.” It’s such an immediate line in the way it forces the reader to question what the truth really is.
Asger Carlsen: Wrong is all about adding to an existing context. When you first saw the series, did you actually believe that these things had taken place? That they were real?
No, but the success of Wrong lies in its possibility. We believe it’s possible for these things to be true. And these conditions, or similar conditions, do actually exist in real life – Hirsutism, for example.
I agree. There is a composite of illusion and reality in the images, and I think they’re even more believable because they are produced in black and white. Considering how overly fantastic the world can look with CGI technology, it always surprises me how many people question the actual events within an image I’ve created. Even though they know it’s not real, their mind is manipulated somehow, and suddenly they think the content could be possible. I understand how some of the images could maybe relate to things that exist in real life – hirsutism, like you mentioned – but it doesn’t interest me to tell those stories. The work should be considered a relief from reality.
Why did you choose to shoot everything in black and white?
I like the simplicity of it, and there’s a certain trust in back and white imagery. It has something to do with its relationship to historical events – certain elements of history have been documented in black and white – which I find appealing.
And what is also present is a certain amount of humour, at least in the Wrong images. Often, having encountered one of your images, what we are left with after initial surprise is laughter. Is that important to you?
It is, although I’m not really trying to be funny. I find humour in quietness and subtlety. It’s not something that needs to be talked about. In a way, it’s just something that’s there.
Read the full interview in It’s Nice That Issue #6, released tomorrow.