“I got interested in photography during my teenage years when I worked as a performance artist and DJ at various Norwegian goth and metal clubs. I would take pictures of my friends and the people I would meet,” photographer Kim Jakobsen To tells It’s Nice That. After completing a year of sociology and film-making at a Norwegian college, Kim enrolled in the Photography BA at UCA Farnham. There he studied under Anna Fox, Jason Evans and Gareth McConnel, all of which he says played an integral part in shaping his photographic language.
Kim’s work exudes an honest humility. His latest project, Squires of the Square Table, which he worked on alongside his boyfriend Hamish Wirgman for the 2018 spring issue of Man, is populated by male figures half-dressed in multicoloured armour. These men, Kim reveals, are a group of friends who work as live-in guardians in an old youth centre in Brighton. “I used to organise cosplays in my hometown and looked back to the costumes I made for them. I liked the idea of the guardian as a medieval character, and Hamish was working a lot with folding paper at the time,” Kim explains. Squires of the Square Table plays on “the ridiculous concept of protective guardians.” Alongside visual artist Jack Appleyard, the three creatives constructed delicate and impeccably stylish fragments of medieval armour.
Squires of the Square Table exudes a quiet truthfulness, which is perhaps what makes the series so striking. Soft gazes and demure postures evoke a vulnerability in Kim’s photography that, in turn, lends his series a universal accessibility. “I wanted to capture friendship, a way of living and use the clothes as a method for the guys to break out of their own skin.” Kim’s openminded approach manifests itself in his sitters’ visible ease with which they pose in front of the camera. “I’m very happy with the picture with red gloves in particular. There was an element of femininity and grace that came over the sitter during the shoot, which was a really beautiful moment. He was quite nervous about being photographed, but opened up towards the end of the day. For me, to see something be created and changed while working on a project is something I really appreciate,” the Norwegian photographer discloses.
Kim’s sensitivity is equally obvious in his series Shirahama, which depicts the traditional Japanese fighting festival Kenka Matsuri. “I’m interested in rituals and male rites of passage, which is partly the subject of a project I am currently working on,” Kim says. Despite the violent subject matter of Shirahama, Kim manages to capture moments of pre and post-fight calm. “I was looking at the dress, the attitudes and the community spirit of the partaking villages. I am very fascinated with social uniforms and what that does to you and your identity. I think community is very important in achieving a deeper sense of joy and it is sadly something that is being replaced by digital distractions.”
Despite his remarkably accomplished portfolio, Kim still faces new challenges with every photographic task he takes on. “I don’t want to make anyone feel uneasy when working with me but, at the same time, I always feel that I should push more to get what I visualise. It’s tricky to capture what’s in my head because I tend to be too polite. I try not to worry about what others think, but for a Norwegian from a small town that can be quite hard. People are very condescending towards individuality there. You grow up around neurotic observations from other locals.” But these worries are not reflected in his photography. On the contrary, Kim’s strength appears to be his emotional intuition, which puts his sitters at ease. The result is series after series of beautifully striking yet subtle portraiture that push aesthetic and social boundaries.
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