A supernatural apparition. That’s how Marianne Nilsen looked when we met for our interview. Dressed in white with her long hair encircling her face. I thought it was going to be easy: a quick bite, a chat about photography and goodbye. How wrong I was! We talked about photography over a lunch which ran late into the afternoon. But the majority of our conversation covered science, philosophy, history… all things she loves to talk about. She has theories about just about everything that goes on in the world. And all you can do is sit open mouthed with your fork in the air. “Really?”. “Yes. Trust me”. I didn’t touch my food. She once invaded Carabanchel Prison with a legion of flamenco musicians to organize a concert in aid of the rights of prisoners with AIDS and she directs a casting agency in Marbella - Casting Marbella. It wasn’t easy, but it was a pleasure. This photographer is seductive. We’ve got a dinner date pending.
Q: Do you consider yourself Norwegian or Andalusian?
A: When I arrived I fell in love with Andalusia, in the way Andalusians do. I didn’t come because of the weather, as people always seem to say. I chose to live here. It wasn’t an accident. It’s the best place in Europe.
Q: What don’t you like about Andalusia?
A: That smart people do the fooling and idiots let themselves be taken in. In Norway, a person’s word is his bond.
Q: When did you first pick up a camera?
A: When I had my daughter. She was so beautiful I couldn’t bear it. I had to immortalize her.
Q: How much technique is in your photographs?
A: I’m self taught. I’ve read books and been to workshops. Above all, I have taken thousands and thousands of photos.
Q: What inspires you?
A: Beauty. It’s in everything.
Q: Do you believe in western standards of beauty?
A: Beauty is much more subtle. It is a mixture of how we look on the outside and what is really inside. It’s a miracle I can not explain. An emotion we don’t really understand. Freud’s so-called ‘oceanic feeling”.
Q: How do you deal with the difference between artistic photography and the photography needed to run a casting agency?
A: There is less freedom when taking photographs for casting. Whether it be a man or a woman, it’s about selling a product. Working on the Coca Cola campaign felt like a prostitute. But then I realised I helping other people make some money and improve their résumé. Some good things come from working on these projects.
Q: Do you think photography is an art?
A: It is a lesser art. There is a difference between creating something from nothing and pushing a button. However I define art as anything that can lift you out of reality and make you feel something. Photography isn’t great art. At least not the photos you get in the press.
Q: Do you have to be mad to be a good artist?
A: I know many crazy people and many artists. And I can assure you they have a lot in common.
Q: What would you rescue from the 1960s?
A: Affectionate people, freshness and enthusiasm for life. We thought we could change the world. Then came the punks with their ‘no future’.
Q: What happened to the hippie movement?
A: It is an enormous concept! In Spain there are people who believe that being a hippie is synonymous with being dirty. It’s part of a campaign to discredit the movement. It isn’t lucrative. The CIA killed Kennedy and they killed John Lennon. Neither love or peace is lucrative. How has 9/11 benefited the Arabs? I have many doubts. Yes, I’m radical. But even my mother has been ’shocked’ when some of the things I say are later proved true.
A: I’ve stopped watching TV. I’ve been talking about these things for a long time and they always make me angry. Ever since I started doing yoga I decided it was more efficient to feel good inside. To emit good vibes. In reality humans aren’t as bad as some people make out. The problems come from nation-states and not individuals. When they come together they create a monster. All individuals have a heart, a mother and children.
Q: Who introduced you to the world of flamenco?
A: Antonio Flores.
Q: How did you meet?
A: We met on a plane. I was with my young daughter and he was with the Flores family. Antonio began to watch us and wink. He kept turning around. My daughter was shocked! We didn’t talk. We just smiled. The next day Alexander Vallejo Najera took me to a rock festival on the beach and introduced him to me. But we met on the plane! Coincidence? I’ll never know.
Q: What would you invade today with a troupe of flamenco musicians, like you did at Carabanchel Prison?
A: It would have to be Iraq or Guantanamo. Any place where injustice is rife.
- • Marianne Nilsen on myspace
- • Official website for Casting Marbella
- • Casting Marbella in Tertulia Andaluza