Ole Marius Joergensen practices a different type of conceptual photography from what we normally feature on Vulgaris. Like most of our other features, his work centres around and explores a central concept or theme. However, what makes Joergensen special, is that his work is not only conceptual, but narrative. When asked what he enjoys about photography his response is “I like to create stories.” This is not just a poised response. Throughout his body of work Jorgensen has again and again created playful, often lonely, but always charming stories. “Vignettes of a Salesman” or “Space Travels through Norway” are both prime examples of of the Wes Anderson like whimsy that has long characterized his work. It has worked well for him, as anyone who has skimmed down his long list of awards and nominations can attest to. However, with “Future Blue Is Waiting For You” Jorgensen is doing something different.
This new series has no limitless highways or breathtaking landscapes filled with thrusting spires of ragged rock, vigorous rivers of optimistic blue, or thick verdant forests bathed in sun. Instead here we are confronted with cold or washed out colours, the shots are largely closed interiors creating a sense of claustrophobia that is near inescapable. The few warm colours, yellows and reds, are used sparingly, and instead of warming the scene, they are used instead to suggest a often sinister palliative to each character’s very personal pain. In a way, the use of yellow is not unlike F. Scott Fitzgerald’s in “The Great Gatsby” and his flowers that smell “like pale gold”, or the fancy yellow car drunkenly crashed so quickly. Yellow is not wealth, but a perverted joy or hope.
So what changed, why is Jorgenson taking photographs that feel not unlike an anti-thesis. As are most things in 2017, the answer is a political sign of the times, “For a long time easygoing stories has been enough for me. Little by little I have learned how the world is ‘slowly’ going to hell! We are really screwing up this planet”. With the onslaught of political and social horrors that appear daily in our newspapers and on our newsfeeds, Jorgenson says he “came to a point where I could no longer hold back”. Thus, this new series was born. There is still humour, there is still heavy atmosphere, but both are now dark. The series as a whole appears a layered and seething critic of the road we collectively find ourselves on, the woes of our present exacerbated to their logical conclusions.
It would be wrong, however, to read these photos as purely political. They are also undoubtedly an experiment in horror; Jorgensen’s second. Last year he unveiled his series, Icy Blondes a series of portraits of the female character’s from Hitchcock’s most famous films. However, well the photos contained a horror they centered on the characters’ specific situations and felt removed from ourselves by over half a century. “Future Blue Is Waiting For You” provides a much more immersive delving into our collective psyche. Here Jorgensen offers you a subtler, lingering and more seductive style of horror. Though one shouldn’t distance it too far from his previous Hitchcockian venture. These aren’t gross-out, gore-up mock ups. Jorgensen takes ordinary events and invests them with an immediate dread. These photos promise that what you take for ordinary life left unattended can and will hurt you. According to Stephen King, speaking on the Public Radio Book Show, “fiction of the macabre comes out of this sense of futility that we have. As we grow older we become aware that we are going to die and most of us are going to die in ways that are unpleasant, for most of us it’s there, it’s waiting for us.” Likewise, Jorgensen’s photos remind us that there is a future waiting for us, before death, and for many of us it can and will be unpleasant.
When asked about The Jetsons-like feeling that some of the photos have, Jorgensen explained that he “made some of them into scenes from the “the-old-happy-days”, as it gives the technology a more surreal presence when it is a techo-comment. It is also a comment on that somewhere between the 50s-70s it must have been the “best time to live” because to Jorgensen it appears to have been “a time when things were in balance.” Of course, the problem with a romanticized past is that we do not want to recreate the past, we want to recreate the past without the problems that we’ve forgotten, without the nuclear threats, the racism, the deathly bored housewives. Jorgensen is not blind to this either, and while there are some fond callbacks in his work to a time with more economic prosperity and a less ever present world, he also masterfully uses the problems that have persisted throughout the years to his advantage as a storyteller. For instance, the next photo perfectly blends the past and present impacts of patriarchy on beauty standards.
Titled, True Beauty Comes From Within depicts a woman wrapped up, literally and metaphorically, in an attempt at perfect beauty as prescribed to her by the world around her. The image would not look out of place in a St. Vincent music video. Here the messaging about beauty, which in our interview Jorgensen mimicked, “Its all about the right color on your skin. The perfect look! super-mega white teeth. skinny-healthy-super happy! any fault in your face, cut it off-remove anything which makes your looks anything different from a plastic doll”, has consumed the protagonist’s nightly going-out routine. She sits in front of her mirror, gloved like a surgeon, seemingly suffocating herself in her pursuit of perfection.
According to Jorgensen, Its all about phones here is “of course a comment on our relationship with our beloved cell phones and how much damage they do without us seeing it.” He thought that a fun and funny way of exploring the idea would be “to see what it would look like if my parents generation would be as blinded and addicted as we are today.” Thus Jorgensen placed people in modern cell phone poses, with a traditional setting, and analog phones. The result is somewhat of a surrealist renaissance painting evoking photo. The family in question is struck in dramatic poses around a table in such a manner that one cannot help but draw comparisons to the last supper. Except, of course, that the drama is not unfolding between them, but each family member is locked in their own personal drama with an unseen person whose presence is still undeniably felt. We could discuss here Herbert Marcuse’s claim that “‘technology is fundamentally biased towards domination”, or we could instead look towards Jean Baudrillard’s concept of hyperreality and how that could apply to the cell phone. Instead, however, perhaps we should just take a moment to consider given all that we know, and all that Jorgensen has shown, what the best way forward would be. After all, we can’t, and perhaps shouldn’t want to, go back.