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Sacred Places: An interview

“Sacred Places” is a photobook project in collaboration with photographer and long-time collaborator Philip Messmann.

“This project has not been spontaneous. It’s come from an ongoing conversation for almost a year. And having worked together before, it came about very naturally” reflects Messmann, who was involved with the project from ideation to printing. 

The book unfolds the photographer’s idea of capturing the dream of a sacred place. It was shot on Anholt, a small island between Sweden and Denmark with less than 150 permanent inhabitants.

The nature of Anholt is unique: the island mostly consists of Ørkenen, meaning “the desert”, and is surrounded by reefs and shoals. It is a place where one goes to escape, to feel content; it is the perfect place to shoot Sacred Places, and it’s a true reflection of what Tekla is.

Philip Messmann, photographer of Sacred Places discusses the process and concept behind the photobook:

Where did the idea of making a photobook come from?

[From] an appreciation for the long process of making. Everything moves so fast these days, especially in digital media and photography, so we felt the importance of doing something that could stay relevant for a longer period. 

Sacred Places was not spontaneous. For me and Charlie, it has been a part of an ongoing conversation for nearly a year. Since we’ve done many smaller projects together, it came about very naturally.  I was involved in everything from planning, direction to finally printing the book – and the obstacles that sometimes brings.

What are some of your inspirations that influenced the photography in Sacred Places?

I’ve always been inspired by the sea and its surrounding elements. The ever-changing weather by the ocean occurs to me as organic backdrops in constant movement. Nature sets and decides the mood for the image at any given moment, which I appreciate every time.

Being close to the ocean never fails to inspire me. The project’s location is one of the most isolated islands in Denmark, so it felt natural for this. Where did you stay during the shooting days? 

We stayed at Anholt Fyrgård. It’s a beautiful house, with no electricity, running water or reception in the house, which meant everyone was present all the time. This created an energy on the team that felt very special which I believe is normally hard to achieve. Everyone felt connected and with nature; I will never forget that.

Alf Arén, a member of the family who owns Anholt Fyrgård, discusses the history of the house and life on the island:

Can you tell me a little bit about the house’s history?

The house is located next to the old lighthouse, at the east tip of the Island, 8km from its nearest neighbour. The house was originally owned by the lighthouse master and his family, who built it in 1826. In 1968, my grandparents bought the house and it has been a second home to my family ever since. What is your favourite memory from the project?

Just the experience of being on the island is very special. There are no roads, so you drive along the beach or through the desert. There’s a feeling of total isolation, finding yourself surrounded by nothing but turquoise water and dunes. You have time to be with yourself, without the influence of the outside world. You have the time to be with yourself, without the influence of the outside world. 

What is day-to-day life like on the island?

It depends on the time of the year. There is no electricity, running water or reception, so it’s important that a fire is burning – especially during cold winter months. Through summer, we swim or fish.  Being somewhere so beautifully remote brings a sense of calm. It is a place to turn down the noise of modern life and go inward.

Jess Andersen, art director of Sacred Places, discusses the process and direction of the publication:

You were involved throughout the process of Sacred Places, from being on the island to directing the publication and working on the exhibition design. Which part was your favourite and why?

Working on a publication and creating something that will stand the test of time is always inspiring. At Wrong Studio, we have been working on branding with Tekla ever since they started, so it’s nice to see how the brand has evolved over the years. The entire project was an experience: being on such a magical island and having fun with the project gave the concept the best foundation we could have asked for.

Can you describe the process behind the making of the book?

To honour the long process of book making, the entire publication was shot on analogue film, so we could not see the results immediately. Once back in Copenhagen, Philip made a rough selection from the scans and then the whole team sat down, just putting images together. We had a selection of XY narrowed down and had to get it down to around 70. Finding the substance and collecting the mood of the project came down very naturally. Sometimes the book just picks the photos for you. It’s a little unexpected, but once it’s in a book, somehow you believe it.

Credits Wrong Studio, Philip Messmann, Frederikke Sofie & Oliver Fussing

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