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Kim Høltermand; photography

Big Ideas

Kim Høltermand: From Police Fingerprint Examiner to Professional Photographer

For an artist guided by mood, the landscapes of the Nordic region are a source of inspiration.

I was born in Copenhagen on May 25, 1977, the same day Star Wars opened in theaters. Every time I meet a Star Wars fan, they tell me I was born under a lucky star or something.

It’s funny because I was the classic ’80s boy, with a huge imagination and a love of Star Wars, and it has really inspired my work. I grew up drawing; my father and grandfather were very good at drawing and I was good at drawing. I wanted to be an animator for Disney.

But I went to high school and just got a job after. I’ve had many ordinary jobs – working the switchboard, putting people through to companies. I worked as a shoe salesman, which was not my passion. Sometimes you’ve got to take a job to have money.

I was working as a fingerprint examiner for the police when I started to get into photography. My now ex-wife and I had moved to a house outside of Copenhagen that used to belong to landscape architects. They had left a lot of magazines around and forgotten to end their subscriptions. I started reading the magazines and found that architecture was pretty fascinating.

I didn’t have a camera so I bought one, thinking I’d take it on travels and take photos of my family, but then I thought, Why not try shooting architecture? And on Christmas Eve 2007, I joined Behance and uploaded my first series. It got a great response. That fueled my need to do more architecture photography.

From then on I would do fingerprint examining during the daytime and use every minute of my spare time to do photography, wishing it would become my living bread one day. Nine years later, in 2016, I stopped working for the police and am making a living from my photography.

Kim Høltermand photography

An image from a personal project titled Nordic Futurism. Image courtesy of Kim Høltermand

There’s so much I love about shooting architecture – the lines, the textures, the mood. I think most of my work has been based on mood. In the beginning of my photography, it was the dark mood, the eerie mood, the melancholy mood. More recently, I’ve been happy to try out some sunshine, black and white, and more contrast work.

I think that tells you something about my life in general. When I started in photography, I was in a marriage that was not working out. I was very frustrated about my life, and it had an influence on my work. I became fascinated with mist and fog. It was my escape from everything; I could be content alone in the mist with my architecture and my structures. And indirectly, that actually made me a better artist and photographer because I learned about myself. I learned a lot of stuff driving around in the fog. Some obstacles can make you a better person.

Kim Høltermand photography

From a person project titled The Silo. Image courtesy of Kim Høltermand

The reason so many of my images use desaturated color is because when you suck out the color, it makes the image more cold, lonely, and full of solitude. But even as I’ve become happier in my life, I still like desaturated colors. I think it has something to do with being raised in the Nordic countries. Our climate is very cold; there’s not a lot of warmth or summer. It’s more about wood, stone, cold materials, and flat landscapes. Sometimes I like to look at colorful photographs, but it’s not something I want to shoot myself. Even if my style changes, I will never go into full color, Las Vegas–style photography. If I change my style, it will be because I change my equipment. I do want to evolve and try other cameras and techniques.

I remember this time in 2010 when I was in Sweden intending to shoot fog and mist. The whole week was sunshine, and I was like, “This is not a good trip.”

In my work, I know I have something good when I feel it in my heart and my stomach. I remember this time in 2010 when I was in Sweden intending to shoot fog and mist. The whole week was sunshine, and I was like, “This is not a good trip.” On the very last day before leaving for Denmark, in came the mist of the century. I had never seen so much mist in my whole life. So I quickly drove to a nearby lake, found some rocks at the shore, and started shooting. It was like magic. I was alone, it was all quiet, the birds weren’t awake yet. And I thought, “This is gonna be the greatest series ever.” The concept just formed while I was shooting.

Some years later, I was contacted by an architect from Hong Kong, and now there’s a whole hotel there inspired by that series. I haven’t been to the hotel yet, but it’s the biggest compliment you could ever have.

Kim Høltermand photography

Taken in Tuve, Hong Kong. Images courtesy of Kim Høltermand

I live in Copenhagen with my girlfriend, my daughter, and my girlfriend’s two children, and I don’t intend to move anywhere else, though I do want to travel more. To travel outside of Denmark is to realize what’s so unique about it. I was in Dubai recently – it’s like walking into the biggest casino in the world; everything’s just crazy. And when I returned home, I was like, “It’s so quiet; so clean.” There’s no noise at all; the trees are green. Everyone is kind to each other. It’s a very happy place.

As told to Lauren Covello Jacobs

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