There’s no varnish to Michella Bredahl’s portraits, but it’s not needed. Imbued with a humanistic touch, her photographs – mostly of women who are familiar to her in places that are familiar to them – give the impression that their relationship has come before any desire to produce a book of work. “I think they trust that it comes from a good place,” the Paris-based photographer tells us. “They are proud to be part of my world.”
Bredahl says she works slowly, which is an understatement considering she has spent ten years building up the body of work, and just as long on nurturing relationships with many of the people in the photographs. “I involve people a lot in the process of creating the pictures,” she explains. Many of her friends are artists who enjoy being in front of her lens and collaborating with another photographer in this way.
In her work, Bredahl cultivates a safe space where her participants can be vulnerable, affording them a sense of security and compassion that appears to have been missing from her own early years. The artist experienced a “turbulent home environment” while growing up near Copenhagen in a ‘vulnerable residential area’, a name given to housing developments in Denmark that are often characterised by low income, employment rates, or education levels.
Her considerate approach to photographing women is also a response to the ways in which she has felt objectified on the other side of the camera, having been scouted as a model at a young age. Throughout the book, women appear in various states of undress, but the type of greedy gaze that leaves its mark on so much fashion imagery is entirely absent here.
The name of the book speaks to the friendships in Bredahl’s life which have evolved into a chosen family. But it’s also a testament to her biological family. “The title touches on the love I have for everyone in the book and that I hope the love is mutual. It’s referring to all the different ways we can be loved and that love exists between us.
“It also refers to my mother and sister. The book is dedicated to them. All three of us were separated during a long period of my life,” Bredahl says. “My mother introduced me to a camera for the first time when I was very young. My mother and younger sister are in many ways the core of my work. I have used the camera to relocate many of the memories I had with them and of them separately. The title also refers to them. That I want them to love me again like the love I find in the book through all the people I have met and my friends.”
The influence of her own childhood home lingers over the work, which may go some way in explaining her emphasis on domestic spaces in her images, occupying the role of supporting characters. “Environment has a great importance in my photography. I graduated from a film school and learned there by watching many films how important a space is. A room can tell a story. A room can tell us about the past and the present. I learned that to make great cinema you had to give the room equal importance as the people in your films. A space says so much about a character’s personality. They are connected.
“I think strong photography gives space an important meaning or at least the photography I am drawn by. You can feel that a decision has been made about the room and the light. Where the person is standing in a room or not standing,” she explains. “I always ask if I can photograph people in their homes. I have done that for ten years now. I love getting into an environment I want to photograph. I can see immediately where I want to photograph and how. It hits me like lightning. The room makes me want to photograph.”
Love Me Again by Michella Bredahl is published by Loose Joints; loosejoints.biz