Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Contemporary Florence - An Interview with Birgitte Bronsted

As an artist and designer one of the most important influences for me are other artists. I believe that having a community of like-minded people who share same ideas and passions is essential to creativity. Art in its many forms is a language and I am continually fascinated by the message that other artists aim to communicate though their work.

The ideas of the Renaissance masters was not to continue repeating the same ideas and methods but rather to continue pushing forward and create the new and unexpected and to challenge the perception of what art is.  Contemporary art aims to push the boundaries of these accepted ideas and move away from the past to create the present.  With this in mind,  I will be commencing a new series here on my blog to highlight the artists, designers and creative minds of present day Florence. 

In conjunction with our facebook group Creative People in Florence, I will be conducting a series of interviews with our group members. In the coming months I hope to be able to interview each member who is currently living in Florence as a way of highlighting their wide range of talents. The questions will be exactly the same for each artist/designer and creative person, what I find fascinating however, are the similarities as well as the differences in the answers.

I thought it appropriate to begin the first interview with the Creative People in Florence co-founder Birgitte Bronstead, photographer and blogger extraordinaire!

Tell us a little bit about yourself:
I'm Danish, from Copenhagen and I have been living in Italy on and off since 1994, and permanently since 2003. I have an MA in Italian from Copenhagen Business School and I am also a State Authorized translator in Italian. Until last summer I lived in Rome where I have been working for seven years at the Danish embassy handling press and cultural affairs. During the last 4 years I have been spending more and more time on photography, in the beginning mostly as a hobby, but now I'm trying to turn it into a living especially since I have just quit my job! I am specialized in children's portraits and weddings + other events, so I really hope to be able to build up a client portfolio in Florence as soon as possible.

I live in the center with my partner and our daughter, who is one year old, + our two cats.

Recently I have created a new blog called which is mainly a photoblog. For a year I have been concentrating on my three travel blogs, and, but since three blogs require quite some time, my intention is to unite all of them on this new blog. We'll see how that goes! I really love this new world of blogging and it goes perfectly hand in hand with my photography.

Why did you choose Florence or did Florence choose you?
Hm... this is a good question. I moved to Florence out of practical reasons. I had had a long distance relationship with the father of my daughter for a few years, since he was living here and I lived in Rome, so when I got pregnant we had to find a solution in order to live together as a family. Since I had a long Danish maternity leave which lasted 12 months, the easiest thing was for me to move to Florence, and now it seems we are staying here. I have quit my job at the embassy in Rome, and it looks like Florence is going to be my new city for real.

There are many really great things about Florence compared to Rome. I love that we live in the center and pay the same rent as I paid for a similar apartment far away from the center in Rome, I love that I can bike in Florence, that I can walk around to everything and I love that the city is much more quiet and less chaotic. Public offices also work a lot better here than in Rome. Another great thing is the location. I love Tuscany, which is so easy to visit on small day trips from Florence. All this said I must admit that I miss Rome a lot. Even though Florence has several positive sides which Rome doesn't have, I feel a completely different connection to and love for Rome, which I believe is the most beautiful city in the world.

What is your favorite thing/place/sight in the city or all of the above?
My favorite thing is to walk around the city early in the morning when the light is fabulous, the air is fresh and there are very few people out in the streets. My favorite areas are Santo Spirito and Sant'Ambrogio and my favorite place right now is Gelateria dei Neri in Via dei Neri, which I have just discovered recently. Their semifreddo millefoglie is amazing just like the rest of the ice creams. For lunch I have two places where I keep coming back: 5 e cinque in Piazza della Passera and Vivanda in Via Santa Monica in Santo Spirito. Both are small places with lots of vegetarian and organic food.

Was there a defining moment when you knew that you wanted to be an artist? If so when and what was it?
I'm not sure I have ever had the thought of wanting to become an “artist”, but I do remember the moment I decided I wanted to start on photography, and the funny thing is that of all places it happened right here in Florence. I was representing the embassy at the Festival della Creatività in the end of 2007. Part of the Scandinavian contribution to the festival was a series of black and white photographs of Nordic architecture. I remember being fascinated by the way the photographer was playing with the lines and the geometric shapes in the buildings and I thought to myself that this was something I would like to try as well. A few months later I took my first pictures with my very old, very small and very bad Canon Ixus. They were taken right here in Florence and one of the photos (a photo from the entrance to the Boboli Gardens inside Palazzo Pitti) is still among my personal favorites today.

It's funny how things are connected. A few years ago I went to photograph one of the buildings I had seen at the exhibition in Florence, where it all started, and one of these photographs ended up being my first sale.
What or who is your greatest inspiration and why?
I do not have one particular person who inspires me, but I follow several photography blogs and behind them are some fantastic photographers which I look up to and learn a lot from. In my own photography I am very much inspired by cities. I love cities and I love photographing them. Nature is a gigantic inspiration as is the sea.  I am inspired by simplicity. To me less is always more. And light. Now that I think about it light may be just be my first and overall inspiration. I am addicted to light. Big windows, rooms filled with light. This is definitely my Danish genes speaking. My favorite colors to work with are all kinds of white and cream and soft neutral pastel tones, as well as classic black and white.

What is the best thing about being an artist? What is the most difficult part?
I assume this question refers to being an artist professionally. I have just started on this, so I don't have a lot of experience, but I'm quite sure I can predict the pros and cons anyway :-) The best part is of course that you are spending all your work time on your hobby, your passion. To me photography is almost a physical addiction. I can get so carried away when I take pictures that I have adrenaline pumping in my body. It's not bad to feel this way about your job! Obviously the difficult thing is the economic part. It takes time before you start to earn money (if you ever get to that point!). And you need to have an economic back up to make it in the beginning. I think photographers compared to many other artists are privileged when it comes to the economic aspect sine we have the possibility of offering a more “practical” product in terms of portraits, wedding photography etc. People have a hard time paying for “just” art, so it gets a little easier when the product, you offer, is more a service than just art. Another thing which is definitely a difficult part to me is the fact that you work alone. I really miss having colleagues.

What message do you hope to convey with your art/creative process?
I don't have a message. I just want to create beautiful photographs and hopefully make someone out there feel good when they look at them. 

What is art/design to you? How would you define art?
Personally I think that art requires a creative process. I think you need to really create something. I don't get it when in a museum for modern art I am met by an old bicycle or a toilet lying on the ground with a title and the name of an artist. In some cases these installations may send some kind of message but I find it very hard to consider it art.

Do you listen to music when you work? If so who or what?
No, never. I could when I edit my photos on the computer, but to be honest I always forget to put on music. Actually it's a pity 'cause I love music, especially lounge music.

If you could go back in time 10 years knowing everything that you know now what would you change and why? Or what would you tell yourself?
I wouldn't change anything. I have been really good at following my heart and always doing what I wanted to do. Maybe I would have left an old boyfriend way sooner than I did :-) 

How have your two cultures affected your work?
I am definitely much better at finding beauty in the little things thanks to the fact that I'm living abroad. I am able to see Denmark with the eyes of a foreigner and this is a big advantage since there are so many things to photograph which I probably wouldn't have discovered if I hadn't been away for so long. This is something I use whenever I visit a new place. I scrutinize every little detail when I walk around looking for things that would make a great photo.

Who is your favorite artist/designer/writer/performer?
I have a thing for dead female artists who led some very fascinating lives; Karen Blixen, Frida Kahlo and Anaïs Nin. I have been a huge fan of Madonna for as long as I can remember. When it comes to designers I very much like Stella McCartney first of all for her ethic approach to fashion but in general I prefer Danish and nordic designers both when it comes to fashion and interior design.

What is your favorite movie?
The unbearable lightness of being.

What is your favorite book?
The diaries of Anaïs Nin

Describe yourself in five words.
Positive, optimistic, spontaneous, direct, a bit egoistic :-)

When you’re not being creative what do you do?
I'm with my daughter.

If you could go anywhere in the world where would it be?
I have a long list of places I would like to see. Since moving to Italy, I rarely get to go anywhere, since I usually go to Copenhagen whenever I have the time and money. However, my list includes Istanbul, Japan, Morocco and Bali not to mention a reunion with Paris, Madrid and New York.

Is there anything else that you want people to know about you?
I think the rest should be told through my photographs which can be seen on my website  and on my blog

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