Marcus MB’s photos are surreal portraits that look straight out of a child’s magic book. The self-taught Danish photographer recently embarked on a very long visual journey, 365photos, where he took a self-portrait everyday for a year. How do you reinvent yourself everyday? At the tender age of 21, Marcus does so through eerie photographs that act as an introduction to his dream worlds, allowing us to escape our everyday life too. Rooms Magazine caught up with the young photographer, who once went to the doctor only to be diagnosed with a case of ‘wild imagination’. Humorous, peaceful and calm, we talk to Marcus about his inspirations, his current book project and his dream collaboration with Tim Walker.
Hey Marcus, hope you’re doing well! Tell us a bit about yourself, I know you’re Danish but currently based in Australia?
Hello! I’m very well, thank you. I’m sitting on the terrace with a good cup of coffee, and am looking at the mango trees thinking about when they will be ready to be picked. As you said, I’m currently based in Brisbane, Australia, where I’ll stay until the beginning of February to work and finance my travels. I’m working on writing/making a photo-book dealing with my adventures, thoughts, observations and my progression in the art world.
I read that you started photography after a knee injury, how did that go? Have you always been very creative?
The first knee injury came from a rugby tackling at school. After the knee injury, I suddenly had oceans of time since I couldn’t practice swimming or free diving for some time — which I used to do for hours each day. I asked myself “Marcus, what should you use all this time for?” I had thought about the 365days project before, but had tossed the idea away since I never had enough time for it, but the project was now accessible.
I’ve always been very creative by nature. As a kid I would always be seen with pencils and markers near me, trying to express the stories I had in my mind. I’ve never been good with words, and learned to read and write very late, so I’ve always used visuals to express myself. My imagination is very strong: I used to have heavy sleep problems during my childhood, due to haunting dreams and nightmares. My mom and I actually went to the doctor, and the only explanation the doctor had was: “Marcus, you just have a very developed imagination”. Not the exact diagnosis you would hope for as a 6-year-old kid.
Most of your photographs are portraits. Why the fascination?
I think humans are the most interesting to work with. I try to tell stories through my photos — stories interacting around the human being. I often choose to focus on the back of the model, to give it a more universal character and a beautiful anonymity. I want to give the viewers a possibility to put themselves in the model’s footsteps, and invite them into my little world to hear stories. The reason why I use self-portraiture so much is due to the fact that the models in my photos often don’t interact in a difficult way – modelling wise – which makes it easier if I just do it myself. I also use my personal work as a kind of self-therapy, to handle certain feelings/problems.
Your photographs are all very minimalistic. Could you tell us a bit more about your thought process when shooting?
Regarding my focus on minimalism, I find it the most beautiful, and I follow the idea that if the object does not help the final output, the object should not be there. My love for minimalism has always been very big.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
From very subtle things. It can be the colour of the apple I’m eating, the shape of a leaf on my way or a person’s face. When I get an idea or find something interesting, I sketch it on paper in one of my several notebooks so it is easier to remember. Also, I’ve recently started to read a lot of philosophy, which is triggering deeper thoughts and more inspiration. There will be many references to the books I read in my coming book, either in the form of statements or photo series.
Most of your photographs are manipulated, how heavily do you rely on technology to achieve the desired effect?
A lot of my earlier work is very manipulated, but I’ve recently started to cut down on digital manipulation all the while still trying to retain the same surreal feeling to it. It’s fun. I see it like a mystery or a puzzle to be solved… How to get from A to B, without any help from technology? It pushes your creativity, pushes you to see new ways of bringing the intended story to life. I love it, and it is something that can keep me awake for days.
Your recent project, 365 photos, gained quite some popularity when it came out. How difficult was it to be disciplined and take a good photo everyday for a year?
The biggest challenge has been, without a doubt, how to handle school, work, 365/photography and social life at the same time. I had problems on how to dispose of my time. My passion was photography, but I was imprisoned in the school system. I didn’t see any reasons as to why I should continue school and was very close to dropping out dozen of times. I graduated this summer with the feeling of having wasted my time. My parents were glad I did, since I would have something to fall back on if photography wouldn’t be enough. I had tons of ideas, but not time enough to realize them. I do always have a notebook close to me, if any ideas pop up. Ideas are often only there for a very short time, so it’s important you have resources to catch them.
What has been the most difficult shoot you’ve ever done?
Hmm… Tough one. It was a bit difficult back in my 365-project when I did the photo called Explosive Thoughts. Well, the photo itself wasn’t that difficult, but convincing myself that everything would be all right if I put fireworks on the top of my head was. Or the time when I swam under an ice block in the ocean to take a self-portrait.
I know you are currently working on a book, tell me more about it.
I left my home in Denmark the 11th of September, to begin a yearlong journey and book-project. The book will document my adventures, dreams, observations, development and my 1-year long travel on the other side of the world. It will be a 150+ pages art/photo book of photo series, statements, thoughts and stories. The whole project started out at as collaboration with one of my good friends, who is a writer, but it ended in Byron Bay, after 1 and half month in Australia. We decided to split up due to the fact that we had different goals and therefore different paths through the country. When you head off on such a big journey, it’s important that you don’t compromise, and live your own dream. I suddenly stood in Brisbane alone, and the project had changed and got much more personal. At the moment I’m working here in Brisbane, to finance my further travel. My current plan is to move from Brisbane in February and continue my travel up north. Afterwards I would like to go to New Zealand, Vanuatu, Fiji and end my travel in Japan or Taiwan.
What is your dream collaboration?
A dream would be to work with Tim Walker. Seeing his vivid personality, experiencing his way of working, following him on the set design and just talking to him… I think this is the person I would be able to learn the most from. I’m very fond of his views on the fashion and photography scene in general. It would be a dream.
If you could bring back any extinct object back to life, what would it be?
There are loads of objects I would love to bring back to life. But if I should choose right now, it would probably be a dinosaur. It would be a fun “prop” to work with.
Marcus Møller Bitsch’s first show will open on the 15th January 2014 in Lugarno, Switzerland.