LISE OLSEN BJOERGEN
Can you remember when and where you were scouted? How old were you?
When I was 14 I did my first modelling job, a female photographer came to our school and picked 4 girls to be a part of the promotion of a teenage girls book club. I ended up on one of the covers and the younger kids at the school found them in the library and came up to me asking if I could sign the books. I was so shy and struggled with the attention. But all through my teens there was invitations into the Industry But it wasn’t until I was 20 that I finally signed with an agency.
What is the earliest memory of a model burnt into your mind?
It definitely was the shoot for the teenage girls club. The shoot was natural and playfully, just stacking books and hanging with the other girls. There was candy and fruits on set for us and the day went by so fast and I could not belive I could get paid for having fun. So my introduction to the industry was quite sweet.
Can you tell me an iconic model whose work you got very fascinated by? — What did you feel when looking at images of them?
I’ve always been drawn to the more natural and pure side of Fashion, Daria Werbowy was the model I found inspiration from, as I could relate to her beauty as she seems so effortless. I feel she has a simplicity about her look. And it made me feel inspired to stay true to myself and show my personality and to not feel like I had to prove something to be able to be a part of the industry.
Do you think the “male gaze" is a myth?
Oh definitely not, watching movies and seeing the fashion industry with that in mind I truly do feel that it’s quite real. As long as the industry is male dominant the female voice and approach is gonna be less. There is more balance needed and it’s inspiring to see more and more people voicing the unbalance and demanding change.
What was your first fashion shoot?
The first editorial shoot I remember booking that I could relate to was a shoot for Elle Italy, as I knew about the magazine I felt really proud to be apart of it. It was an amazing day and I still love the work that we created.
What do you love most about being a model?
When I first signed with an agency, they asked if I would like to travel to Milan... the excitement was overwhelming, not really for modelling, but for travelling. Being independent and seeing the world is what made me fall in love with this job.
What do you most hate about being a model?
It’s definitely not a walk in the park, long flights, early mornings, long days... those cold studios or cold location shoots in spring summer clothing when it’s winter. but it gets easy balance out by experiencing so many beautiful places and people.
How do people react when they find out you are a model?
I often have conversations when I don’t bring it up, and it’s not at all the first thing most people learn about me. But many times I have no choice as many people just say straight away “your a model, right?” It Depends on how well I know them and how comfortable I feel in what answer I give. I’ve told countless taxi drives that I’m just a student. I’ve had people straight up google me and start discussing my work. So I like people to get to know me first, not my job.
What is the most common question you get asked as a model?
I’ve noticed most people are curious of the lifestyle, they can start by dreaming away with questions like : we’re have you traveled? Have you meet anyone famous... then they can flip it and say: “it must be so much pressure” “how are you treated“.
I feel they are looking for the drama in it, the highest high and lowest low. And to be fare the job definitely offers that and I thinks that why I’ve tried to keep my personal life as much as I can separated from my work life and just keep myself grounded.
If you would start out now what would you be doing, how would you go about // who would you work with and where would you be aiming?
When I first started all I cared about was the place I was travelling to, the more exciting travel the more I was inspired to do the job. But if I would have stated in this industry now I would be more confident in my own voice as I’m older and know myself a lot more. I would love to be able to work with more sustainable brand and the dream would be to inspiring brands to explore sustainablity and vegan options. And it’s incredible to see the growth of this actually happening righ now in the industry so I’m really great full I’m still working in this times.
Statistics show that only 1 in 10 of the big money jobs i.e. womenswear- beauty and perfume campaigns are shot by women. Is there just no qualified female fashion image makers out there?
This industry like many other industry’s has their favourites and systems in place. To break through is quite challenging. But I truly do belive there is value from taking a risk for brands and designers to put more female photographers at the forefront so they can get the chance to contribute.
How does it feel to be shot by a female photographer vs a male photographer — is there a difference, if so how?
To shoot with a female photographer feels more comfortable for me in the sense I feel more at ease and it’s more simple to build trust quicker, I’ve noticed I often become more a part of the shoot and feel more comfortable speaking up if it’s a female, I guess it’s because it’s less intimidating.
Male photographers are amazing too but it takes longer for me to build up that trust and comfort. And in our job that has to happen fast as were all usually strangers and start shooting as fast the make up and hair is done. So I really appreciate photographers who introduce themselves while I’m getting ready, let’s me know how the day is going and act respectful.
What makes you feel comfortable in front of a camera?
It’s an interesting situation for me, personally I’m so effected by my surroundings and can easily feel uncomfortable. And it’s definitely something I’ve noticed I have more control over in my work environment. Im not as much effected by the cloths, people or even location at time, if it crowded and people are looking. I like to do a good job, and always try to be professional so I try not to let things affect me when I’m in front of the camera. I have a job to do, no matter how I feel so I do my best to enter the role of the day. I like to look at it as the eye of the storm. The calm center in all the caos, only me can make me feel comfortable. So no one or the surrounding can make me feel uncomfortable.
Besides modelling what do you do?
As I’ve traveled alone many years as a model I started always having my camera with me to be able to show the places I’d visit to my family. As my passion for photography grew I learned a lot and it has truly brought so much inspiration and a sense of escape from the hectic model life and given me a outlet to find balance.
As soon as I would have a day of from work I would travel, take the train to explore the surroundings of the big city I was living in. Now when I’m based in Norway I’ve really enjoyed to finally be able to have routines after moving around the globe for 10 years. I love gardening, cooking, hiking and spending time in nature and always having my film camera close by to capture my sorroundings
One says it takes 10’000 hours to become a master of a craft, how long in hours/days/years did it take you to feel like a master of a craft?
For modelling I just approached it as any other job, find out what is expected and do my best. I try to do a good job and make the people I work with happy and that gives me the feeling of accomplishment. I would not see myself as a master in anything really and I’m not trying to be. I’m quite content with always trying my best and learning as I go.
Who is your female fashion image maker icon and who is your the one to watch?
When I was studying in art school and started to build an understanding for photography I really felt for the work by Corinne Day. For me she embodied the “feelings” in her images. The fantasy, I would look at her images of Kate moss and dream into it. Noticing the desire to be the girl who holds the coconut over my shoulder and walk through the sand. It spoke to my adventurous side and still does today.
One photographer I personally has worked with and love is Brydie Mack. I understand more deeply now that her photos have the same effect on me as Corinne Day. And I think the ability to create an image that can make people see themselves, feel adventurous and be inspired with a softness and feminine touch is important as it become more relatable for a female viewer.
Who is your female designer icon and who is your the one to watch?
Stella McCartney has always been my icon in this industry as she not only creates beautiful clothing but also stand strong in her ethics and has been the forefront for the sustainable and vegan movement in the industry.
I’m all about sustainability and the movement to make any industry better for our future and there truly is so many new designers and brand really pushing that. One brand I’ve really noticed lately is Sandra Sandor’s Nanushka. I love that they use mostly vegan leather and are open about their constant evolving to a more sustainable brand.
What do say about the charge that all fashion imagery is predominantly sexist?
Sex and sexuality has always been part of the arts and has been a topic for generations. Exploration of females in the modelling industry is happening, and setting an age limit and stronger regulation for agencies to uphold when it comes to photographers that has an history of abuse and also to create a safe systems that protects the female and male models in the industry is essential to show that its not longer accepted. The saying sex sells is in part making the sexualised behaviour more normalised and I do belive the industry needs a shift away from that.
There is a big surge of feminism at the moment - do you think that will affect fashion image making?
I hope so, females are so complex and our beauty speak volumes. It’s not just our bodies that should get all the attention, our hearts and minds have so much to offer and the time has come where we are having a louder voice. Inside the fashion industry this is definitely having a trend moment, models who speak up and have strong personalities are celebrated and I truly hope this is becoming the new norm.
When I look at your work as a model, one of my favourite images is the one by Ivana Martyn-Zyznikow. What is yours?
Thank you, she is a model, stylist and a photographer so it was a great experience shooting with her last year and proud about what we created.
My favourite images always ends up being the ones I shoot on film, natural light and in nature. I love the rawness of the images and also the experience to shoot without the ability to check, and to trust the process. the excitement to see final result is greater as you really never know with film photography how it’s gonna turn out. And I love that!
One image I shot years ago now with Cameron Hammond.
With me sitting on a rock on a cloudy beach day is my absolute favourite. It’s just so me.
What was your relation to design/fashion prior to modeling? Has it changed?
I went to art school before I started to model so I’ve always loved the creative aspects of it all. Being used to create by playing with photography, painting, drawing and sewing. I found it a bit frustrating to be in front of the camera when there is such a creative space behind the scenes that I craved to be a pet of. But I embraced my part and now I love getting to work with so many creative people and soaking it all.
What qualities do you value in an agent or booker?
This is such an important part of modelling, as this is the essential working relationship you have to build. and I really appreciate when a booker, or agent can be transparent in the process and understands who I am and together create the image they would like for me to represent. As it should be a partnership and a mutual agreement. When I first started modelling I was a yes person doing it all without so much thought as I just was so appreciative of the opportunity but as I’ve gotten older I truly see the importance of the partnership and to be able to have my say in we’re I want my career to go.
What is the most valuable piece of advice you were ever given and what advice would you have wished for earlier on in your career?
This makes me think of an advice I wish I could have given to myself in the beginning that I’ve later discovered. I was always overwhelmed by the ethical impacts of my job, what I was representing, indirectly hurting (female self image) and that I was promoting mass consumption. Often questioning the lack of sustainable practices in the industry. I’ve definitely had a love and hate relationship with this job and felt guilty at times. But as I grew into the job I understood the importance of being the light in a dark place. To not let the negetive aspects of this industry dim my light but for me to shine regardless and focus on the people I meet and have a chance to inspire by simply just being true to myself.