All images by Simon Hjortek. Used with Creative Commons permission.
There’s more to portrait photography than just straightforward headshots or studio portraits. As we’ve seen in many previously featured conceptual portrait works, it can also be used to tell stories. It’s always interesting to see what surrealists — or at least those who have an inclination for bizarre and peculiar imagery — can create out of portraiture. Another perfect case in point is a series by Swedish fine art photographer and filmmaker Simon Hjortek, which features a strange combination of elements to produce a visual narrative that challenges the viewer’s perception and imagination.
Titled Obscura, the series is well thought out, curious, and beautifully executed. The styling mixes dainty details with some unusual elements, creating the first layer of surrealism. Next is the bizarre combination of the old gym setting and props like vintage television, noodles, cigarettes, and gymnastics equipment — I can’t even begin to imagine where all of these intersect. The poses are equally puzzling yet also intriguing; the kind that makes you wonder what’s really happening and what this odd mix is all about. All of these are bathed in gorgeous, retro-styled color grading that makes the entire set drip with nostalgia.
Since Hjortek left no clues about his aptly named series or even the inspiration behind it, we are left to make our own interpretations and stories about this body of work. Or not. The charm of surrealist works like this often lies in what cannot be fully explained, grasped, or understood. Whether you choose to come up with your own take on the story, or simply find yourself taking in all the strangeness and the beauty, it doesn’t change the fact that Obscura shows what you can achieve when you experiment and push the boundaries of visual storytelling.