Dancer of the badlands

Finding strength in hopeless places, Fryd Frydendahl takes you on a journey through her mind and artistic work. Check out our conversation with the photographer.

Text + interview by Gabriela Holesova

A child of the marshlands on the western coast of Denmark where the sea meets the long stretches of sand and grass, the photographer’s signature in her work is very personal yet not revealing at the same time. Like with the delusory surface of the marshes, you might be led into thinking you got the whole picture only to find something much deeper if you pay attention.

Perhaps her most notable work, the ongoing project Nephews mesmerised many, depicting the journey of her two nephews after the passing of their mother at their very young age. The balance of strength and vulnerability is the intertwining element in most of her photographs, evoking a profounder sense of connection between the viewer and the subjects.

Enjoy Fryd’s new series of photos called “There would be no dance, and there is only the dance,” coming out as a zine at NYABF below.


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Your photographs all have a feeling of being very personal; do you always need to have some sort of a pre-shooting session to get to know the subject better? Does it sometimes happen that photographing someone you actually even knew before completely changes your perspective of how you view them?
Preferably I like to photograph people that I know in some way or at least have a pretty good notion about. I don’t necessarily have to meet people in person before I photograph them, but I always try to study photographs of them beforehand, just to get an idea of mannerisms and personality. That said, there are often situations where I have to photograph people that I have just met, and in those I try to “read” them really fast, which I think I have gotten quite good at. I do prefer having time to prepare. I always do small sketches before I start photographing; different poses, colors and such, it can be how I see a hand touching thigh, a look in a certain direction, two people leaning against each other so on and so forth. It’ s just stick figures on paper (I can’t draw). Even if I am doing a project/assignment where I have to venture into the world I will have made some of those to keep in my pocket, I feel better prepared that way. And yes, a lot of the time I like people better after I’ve photographed them.


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Is your work a process of co-creation with the models, letting their own personalities shape the final result of the shooting or do you have a clear idea of what you want them to represent?
Well, it differs. If it is people that I work with a lot, then it definitely becomes more of a fusion between them and I. I see most of what I do as collaborations. As I mentioned I do come into the situations with a pretty clear vision and I do always have a plan for what I would like to happen, but the beautiful thing about photography, maybe most creative processes really, is that the ‘moment’ that you are in will always have decisive power. The mood and/or dynamic between me and the subject matter will always make its way into the work, no matter how much I have planned beforehand.


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Has any of your photographic projects engulfed you so much that you came out of it as a different person?
The “Nephews” project. The two of them mean everything to me and the work has been my life for so long. Maybe this isn’t exactly what you are asking… The work has been like a map through a lot of hardship, loss and doubt. It’s always been a guiding source when everything else has felt chaotic and broken. Hopefully the project will continue for a long time but if not, then it will always stand as a symbol of love to them and to photography for me.


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Do you view photographs as pleasurable artefacts representing the unchanged, unaltered, what once was, or rather points of reference capturing the ever-ongoing change?
Gosh – both really. Photographs can been used as a gateway to nostalgia and to study the past. For me personally, in my own work, it gets really interesting when that is eliminated. A friend and mentor told me that my work is the best when you can’t specifically tell exactly when and where a photograph was taken, and I think he is right. In the “Nephews” work, for instance, the only thing that gives away time is that the work has grown over a long period and you can see them growing older, but you’ll never see them holding an iphone or something like that.


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Is there one thing you always focus on having in a photograph?
Intensity, but I think that the things and people that I am drawn to and the people that are drawn to me, has that as a built in default.

Do you enjoy shooting spontaneously and discovering the hidden potential along the way or do you feel better if you have it planned ahead?
I need to have some sort of plan or else I panic.


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The topic of the month is “strength” – what was the strongest, or most memorable moment you’ve ever encountered during your artistic work?
I think it was the moment I realized what the “Nephews” project had done for me and the boys. I am not sure that they fully realized this yet, but the fact that we have made such a document of our lives together it’s pretty special. I am not sure that I have fully realized this yet either, but I know that it is, and I know that because we have made this work together we have kept the conversation about our losses alive, and I think that has given us strength.


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What do you think is more important: strength or vulnerability?
I don’t think you can separate the two. True strength comes from the ability to be vulnerable.

And last but not least, we’re always looking for new talents to feature on Kink. Is there someone you would like to recommend to us?
I would like to recommend my friend Emma Acs. she creates magical sounds and is a very special being.


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Fryd Frydendahl:
Website, Instagram
Text: Gabriela Holesova

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