Early on, I was conscious that if photography was to be interesting as artistic expression, it had to elevate itself above its immediate narrative. That was a complicated and mystical process. It still is. It's connected to mystique and intuition. It's difficult to explain what it is that changes a photograph from just being a picture of something to being a picture about something. Diane Arbus, says it beautifully: "A photograph is a secret about a secret. The more it tells you, the less you know."
- Krass Clement
Krass Clement (b. 1946) is an autodidactic Danish photographer, living and working in Copenhagen. Graduating with a film directing degree in 1973 from the Danish Film School, he soon after returned to photography which he had practiced in his youth. Since publishing his first book Skygger af øjeblikke (Shadows of the Moment) in 1978, Clement has become an active documentary photographer, focusing on people from both Denmark and abroad. Starting out in black and white, he has persisted in developing and modernising his artistic expression so that his practice today also includes work in colour.
Clement's childhood was spent between boarding schools and living abroad with his parents. Throughout the 1950s, much of his time was spent in Paris, which had an indelible impression on the young photographer. Fascinated by the city’s disparity of wealth and poverty in the post-war years, over the course of his career Clement has returned to photograph Paris in an attempt at retaining the impressions and reinterpreting the memories the city had on his childhood self.
His seminal series Drum (1991), photographed in an Irish pub on a single evening with only three and a half rolls of film, is now considered one of the most important contributions to the contemporary Danish photobook. Revolving around one principal character - a hunched, weather beaten old man who sits alone with his drink, Drum comments on community, the outsider, alienation and the terrors of being alone. From the text that accompanies the images in the book, the reader is informed that the bar was the meeting place for local Protestants in what is otherwise a predominantly Catholic region.
While much of Clement's work was first presented in exhibitions, by the 1990s he had turned to books as his preferred medium. Among his many voluminous publications of black and white photographs are Byen bag Regnen. Fotografier fra København (1987), Af en Bys Breve. Fotografier fra Lissabon (1993), Drum. Et sted i Irland (1996), Langs Vinden. Et fotografisk Essay (1998) and Før Natten. Havana (2001). These pictorial essays contain very little commentary, just a few words or city titles accompany the photographs.
Clement's photographic work emerges from two traditions: the Scandinavian melancholy and the 'flaneur' tradition from the Parisian school. His work originates from a fertile and imaginative thought process, a stream of consciousness that is clearly evident in his later books, more concerned with capturing a state of mind than with situations. His books are less documentary depictions than subjective moods; somewhere between spectator and reality.