Magnum photographer Jonas Bendiksen has created a unique tribute to both his homeland and the extraordinary world of Norwegian Black Metal music in his new series, Singing Norwegian Singers. More than 40 photographs from this project, commissioned by Leica UK and shot on the Leica M rangefinder system over the past year, will be exhibited for the first time at the Leica Gallery Mayfair from 17 - 27 October 2016.
The resulting closely-cropped portraits capture the intensity and energy of the individual singers. Shot in dim light with resulting red eye, interspersed with texture from hair, beards and sweat, the photographs bring the viewer remarkably close to the singers. Each image is accompanied by a sound file of the singers, so that the photographs are not only to be looked at, but also experienced.
Bendiksen comments, “All around the world, I’ve had problems explaining my home country of Norway to people. Even if they imagine they know where this small nation is on the map - somewhere near the North Pole, many say - it is often difficult to find well-known Norwegian exports people can relate to. Nobel Peace prizes, fjords, oil exports, and even chess player Magnus Carlsen, often yield a blank stare and a shake of the head.
“Not so with Norwegian metal.
“In fact, Norwegian extreme metal music has become one of the country’s biggest cultural exports.People all over the world know the lyrics, life stories and albums of bands like Gorgoroth, Burzum and Darkthrone, as well as newer and more obscure bands.
“I’ve met people in tiny villages from Bangladesh to Venezuela who almost self-ignite with excitement the moment I mention Norway
“In the early 1990s, Norwegian Black Metal made its shocking entry on to the world stage with church burnings, homicides, stagecraft, with an intensity few had seen before. The growling vocals and intense riffs of metal music made in Norway somehow hit a primal dissonant note all over the planet.
“I wanted to photograph the music with the same directness and intensity. I took a flash and photographed Norwegian singers singing, head on.”
Remarking on the work, Jason Heward, managing director, Leica UK, said, “Jonas’ project is striking and something different, portraits of the men behind this aspect of Norwegian culture. It is fitting that we celebrate ten years of digital M with work from one the best contemporary photographers, shot on the Leica system. This work continues our series of collaborations with Magnum Photos, delivering creative Leica photography for curious audiences.”