Competitions, Interviews

Kasper Palsnov: The absurdities of the everyday

A portrait from SALT, a series that explores the mysterious power of the Dead Sea. © Kasper Palsnov. 

The Copenhagen-based photographer discusses why it is everyday occurrences that catch his eye

Postcards from Copenhagen gives three photographers the opportunity to travel to Copenhagen on an exclusive group commission. To introduce the competition, British Journal of Photography will profile a number of photographers each inspired by the Danish capital. 

On the website of Copenhagen-based photographer Kasper Palsnov you will find only one project. SALT is an evocative body of work exploring the mysterious power of the Dead Sea and was published almost two years ago. This single project however is not the complete picture.

Palsnov is a documentary photographer and rather than exclusively create standalone bodies of work, he prefers to capture the unexpected absurdities and quirks of everyday life, be that in Copenhagen, the city he has called home for the last seven years, or overseas. “The foundation of my photography is curiosity,” he says. “Life is incomprehensible and that’s why I choose to approach things that I do not really understand. A curiosity comes first, then the camera.”

Palsnov’s Instagram feed serves as his “visual journal”. The eclecticism of the photographs published on the platform is indicative of his documentary style and curious approach. There is no singular theme or subject matter: while one photograph shows a lone woman sat on a kerbside in London, a string of nostalgic photographs capture a recent road trip through Sweden. “I wish to show beauty in people, things and situations,” says Palsnov explaining his approach. “Sometimes this beauty might be unconventional, but it is still beauty.”

A photograph taken during a road trip in Sweden. © Kasper Palsnov.

Postcards from Copenhagen is seeking photographers that share Palsnov’s desire to delve beneath the surface and discover the everyday occurrences that give a place its character. The competition, run by British Journal of Photography and Wonderful Copenhagen, the city’s official tourism organisation, will give three photographers the opportunity to travel to Copenhagen for one weekend and create an intimate portrait of the Scandinavian city. All travel expenses and four nights’ accommodation will be covered, and the three winners will also receive a £1,500 grant.

A finely tuned itinerary will enable the three competition winners to experience the city from a local perspective, steering clear of tourist hotspots and instead being shown Copenhagen’s best-kept secrets. The group commission will later be published on British Journal of Photography’s website and by Wonderful Copenhagen.

A woman eats street food in Copenhagen. © Kasper Palsnov.

Documenting Copenhagen in a similarly sincere and authentic manner has been a preoccupation of Palsnov’s since he moved to the city. In 2013 and 2014 he worked as a photojournalist for Copenhagen-based daily newspaper Berlingske. “I photographed,” he says, “the slaughter of a giraffe, prime ministers, backstage at the ballet, and everything in between.” 

In September 2017, the photographer embarked on a project documenting Copenhagen’s Nordvest neighbourhood. Every day, for ten days, Palsnov and the four photographers that he shares a studio space with would photograph the neighbourhood and then exhibit the results to the public in a former kiosk located in the heart of Nordvest Copenhagen. “The area is known as the most worn in the city, but it is also an area of drastic change and development,” says Palsnov. “We were amazed and thrilled to experience so many new places and personalities in the area where we live and work. It confirmed my belief of one’s local neighbourhood being as complex and beautiful as any place.”

Originally from Vendsyssel, a district at the most northerly tip of Denmark, Palsnov moved to Copenhagen after studying Photojournalism at The Danish School of Media & Journalism. He has lived in the city ever since. “Photographers in Copenhagen are very open and helpful towards each other,” he says, speaking about what drew him to the city. “Denmark is a small country, so within documentary photography, most photographers know each other.”

A man visits the home of architect and designer Arne Jacobsen during an Open House event. © Kasper Palsnov.

Palsnov is an avid traveller yet he is just as enthusiastic about photographing the scenes and subjects found on his own doorstep in Copenhagen, as those he finds when exploring a foreign country. “Photographing in unfamiliar destinations and in Copenhagen doesn’t differ that much for me,” he says. “The real life outside your own window is as beautiful and absurd as any foreign place. You just need to open your eyes and mind and sense it.

“It is always fun and interesting to experience and explore an unfamiliar place – it awakens your senses and curiosity and gives you a certain beginner’s mind that can be very inspiring – but it is not essential to my photography. Life just outside my door is as complex and interesting as anywhere else.”  

It is perhaps Palsnov’s trip to Sweden this summer, however, that best captures his approach to photography. It is not solely about where or what you photograph but also the experience of capturing an image. “The trip to Sweden was not about photography but about being a human and wanting to sense things and explore. This should always be how photography is approached, then the picture will always come. You need to experience in order to have something to photograph: the experience always precedes the photograph.” The same will be true for Postcards from Copenhagen.

Explore Copenhagen while creating a new body of work! British Journal of Photography and Wonderful Copenhagen have teamed up to send three photographers to Copenhagen on an exclusive group commission. Enter the Postcards from Copenhagen competition today!

From the 2016 series, SALT. © Kasper Palsnov.

Another photograph from SALT. © Kasper Palsnov.

Scenes from Jerusalem, April 2017. © Kasper Palsnov.

This is a British Journal of Photography commission made possible with the generous support of Wonderful CopenhagenPlease click here for more information on sponsored content funding at British Journal of Photography.