In our latest game of Photo Ping-Pong, Bergen photographer Helge Skodvin took on New York-based photographer Christian Delfino: a battle of humor and intelligence between the two distinct aesthetic styles ensued.
Helge’s photographic work is as tongue in cheek as his artist statement which concludes a list of achievements with a line that reads: “He currently drives a family Skoda station wagon. He’s not sure what happened.” His photographic work often incorporates this offbeat humor (he titled his second book Moveable Beast), and his return serves against Christian were each accompanied by quick-fire repartee: “A smash return. No doubt!”.
In our first set, Helge returns serve to a jade green apartment block with quiet urban streets cast in strong daylight and Nordic whites. “I saw this image and I thought about something green,” Helge explains. “But then I liked the darkness and the feeling that there is something dodgy going on inside the window at ground floor. And that I wanted to serve back something that was the opposite, something that was really light and white and filled with pure serenity. A tricky return.” In the second, twisting lines that curve down a set of public stairs in Christian’s image are mirrored by those that stretch around the belly of a taxidermy zebra that Helge has responded with. “That’s blue I said. And the grid pattern. Aha, I return the zebra in the blue room. A smash return. No doubt!”, or so Helge’s commentary tells us. His color-coding continues: Christian’s third serve marked as yellow. “A man selling cologne, cigarette, and pastry. A big city in a densely populated area of the world. A man looking away. I return a yellow image. With a man looking away. In an area of the world that is not densely populated at all. But still has this feeling of being not totally connected with the world. An open return,” Helge narrates.
Christian and Helge’s photographs are visually distinct but similar in their recontextualizing of foreign or alien objects: be that a taxidermy animal or a beat-up Mercedes. In our fourth set, Christian returns serve to Helge’s plastic shark with a tomato-red paint splatter: “Skodvin’s photograph of the inflatable shark represents this benign threat that I returned serve with the paint bucket image which appears to be blood at first sight. Both images portraying a playful peril in vacant environments.” In our fifth set, Christian fired back a car in response to the moose served by Helge. “I attempted to point out the non-nativeness of the stuffed moose in its environment with my return,” Christian explains. “The image of the car in the jungle, which touches on a common idea in my work — the clash of the subject with its environment.”