• David Spadavecchia

Tanja Mortensen

Updated: Dec 17, 2019

When you first see Tanja Mortensen’s gallery, a phrase that comes to mind is “photography wiz”. With an element of somber fantasy and the occasional multiple exposure, Mortensen is nothing short of a wizard with a lens.

Incorporating gentle elements of horror into her portraits—blood stained models or grimacing faces smothered by plastic wrap, to name a few—Mortensen’s concepts and use of lighting maintain a mystical tone.

In her image of a falling woman, Mortensen juxtaposes beauty and demise, embracing the collapse of oneself as it crashes into the unknown. Titled, “I can’t tell anymore—is this pain or is it pleasure, is it hunger or satiation”, the image brings to mind the sensational tragedy of Alexandre Cabanel’s painting, “Ophelia”.

Another photo, titled “I Can’t Forget Who I Am…Nr 8 Alice?”, captures the emptiness of a lone journey to finding oneself. The main subject sits in a deserted forest with her back to the viewer, the seemingly endless underbelly of a train track hovering to her right. Above floats a mirror through which the viewer can see the subject’s face, her eyes captivating the lens as well as the viewer. The image seems to hint that the subject holds the gaze and not the viewer, just as the subject is taking ownership of her identity amidst the isolating experience of others attempting to define her.

When taking in the sight of “Feelings, Emotions, Thoughts”, Mortensen’s usually bright, rose-hued tones take on a noticeable turn. Instead she uses an ashy shade, where feathery contrasts in light evoke a somber response.

Featuring her husband as a model, who poses for much of her work, Mortensen’s piece recalls the age-old tale of forbidden fruit, shame, and a glint of thrill. With an image so lovely and morose, one is left with a sense of brooding pleasure.

In addition to the temperate confrontation of her content, Mortensen’s pieces are paired with soft lighting, leaving us to wonder at the enchanting settings of her work. Many of Mortensen’s outdoor scenes are shot in Bremen, Germany, where she scouts her locations two days in advance to “get the feeling for the place” and allow her “vision to flow”. As for indoor scenes, Mortensen usually shoots from her home, converting her living room into a mini studio.

Born in Denmark to a family of creative minds, Mortensen was raised to revere and practice the arts. Describing her art as her own “personal therapy”, she feeds “what [her] soul needs” by slipping into her visionary world behind the lens.

Today, Mortensen gains great satisfaction in producing her work, feeling that she is “leaving [a] mark” to be remembered by, using photography as her unique fingerprint on a world of images.

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