andrea gjestvang – body histories

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Andrea Gjestvang

Body Histories

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Like many young girls, I used to dream I was beautiful, a princess adored by others. When I grew older, I realized this was a dream I shared with almost everyone.

Many people develop an extreme relationship to their bodies. Some struggle a daily fight with their image. Many become obsessed. The body serves as an exhibition space, a way to be seen and desired, to make money and survive. It is a tool to achieve your dream.

Four years ago, I started to look for people with an interesting body-history. I found them everywhere: On the subway in Berlin, in the lift of my hotel, in a gipsy-village in Hungary, or on the Internet. Through photographing these people and their society, I hope my project will say something about our relationship to our body, on a personal and social level.

The essay includes single shots and pictures that are a part of different reportages. As a photographer working on different fields in many parts of the world, I always find myself returning to reportages that are dealing with different body issues. The stories are continuously published in the newspapers and magazines I work for, and at the same time the collection of pictures for a future body book is growing. I think this is quite a functional way of combining personal and professional work.



Andrea Gjestvang is a Norwegian photographer based in Berlin. She is a freelance photographer covering Europe for the Norwegian Daily Verdens Gang, and is constantly working on larger documentary projects. She is a new member of Moment Agency.


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Andrea Gjestvang


Editor’s Note: Please only one comment per person under this essay.. Further discussions should take place under Dialogue..

Many thanks… david alan harvey

37 Responses to “andrea gjestvang – body histories”

  • Good photographer. A couple of photos that could work as fine art. The rest of the stuff would make a good feature on PopEater. The weird and unusual seems to draw a lot of views.

  • wonderful images… i love the message here… very clear… the images are beautiful and sad in a way all at the same time… i love this…

    hi david. tried calling you. give me a call anytime regarding burn +1 905 431 8626

  • Andrea, your work is amazing!! why you were not a grant finalist I dont know? Great work and love your eye.

  • I really love this set, more so than many of the finalists. Wonderful work!


    i would agree…while Andrea did submit a body essay for the EPF she did not submit exactly what you see here…i cannot control what photographers submit, nor edit for them once they have submitted….i am sure you would agree that editing one way or the other makes such a big difference ….in any case, i certainly feel that Andrea is a very fine photographer who will go far with her career…this work certainly deserves to be a book at some point soon….to this end i will work with her…

    cheers, david

  • very interesting work here! it held my attention throughout and i was excited to see what the next image would be (this is rare for me to feel this way!!!)
    the image of the tattooed older woman is very strong- not just because of all her ink, but the expression you have captured and the shallow DOF.
    lovely work!

  • …good stuff…
    one more reason we need more female storytellers out there…
    they see, feel, record different…
    A man could never “see” the world this way…
    fresh… likes it

  • I like very very much this work, excellent focused and showed. Only don’t like a few pics, 12, 13 and 16 that are weak in comparison of the others in my opinion, that nobody asked. Thanks for share this essay.

  • Really enjoyed this. Great work!

  • “Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies.”-aristotle

    and that, that there, is the the carriage and the troika of our lives, the difficulty in the negotiation between who we ARE (the inside soul and heart and spirit bumbling around) and the carcass of who others SEE us as, and those ‘others’ include ourselves when we’re trying to strip and carve away…..that is the terrible and difficult and yes, sometimes joyous celebration: to see who we really are amid all that flesh and bone and appearance….something that each and everyone of us continues to explore and excavate, from the ‘beauties’ to the ‘normal’, from the ‘thin’ to the ‘thick’, from the ‘straight’ to the ‘awkward’, from the clean to the tatood….it’s part and parcel of all of our lives….for me, it too has been an obsession…coming to terms with appearance and photogrpahy: how is it we see others and how we see ourselves and how ‘they’ see themselves….

    first, let me congratulate you Andrea on a magnificent essay….I have been a BIG FAN of your work since i first saw it….i think i first saw your work when you shared you ‘Under the Gazele Bridge’ at Road Trips…and then i was stunned by ‘Acid’…and I am so so pleased to see this work here….You are a wonderful photographer with a great eye for moments but, more importantly, a great sensitivity to the ‘life’ of the moment, of the people you are photographying….

    as an essay, it’s filled with great and challenging and often contradictory images, which makes the essay that much more full and rich….I dont ‘like’ all the pictures, and i think the essay could have included some of the outstanding pictures that are on your website, such as the young girl in the red bathing suit with the blue slide and pool (under People) or the droopy boxer (brilliant image) or female bodybuilder (blonde) whose breasts are exposed….these are 3 extraordinary images left out…and thought i dont see each of the images has having the same visual or emotional or conceptual power (the catwalk picture seems out of kilter), these are minor thoughts….the totality of the essay is brilliant and works on both a visual/intellectual level but also a magnificently humane and emotional one, one for which each of us can identify powerfully…

    and all the photographs of this male ‘beauty contestant’ are simply magnificent…the picture of him in white (with the dress hanging) is heart-rich…as is the cover image…

    as for the EPF stuff…well….that’s old news….and it’s just another reason why awards, in the greater scheme of things are nothing more substantial than personal opinion and relationship and luck…

    the work that outlives and challengs and survives has a life long beyond and ring-wiser that that ;))

    I’d would love this work even if it received nothing…it’s rich and special on it’s own terms…

    congratulations Andrea for magnificent, inspired and joyous work…..

    so happy to finally see this here :)))


  • Not a new idea by far, as far as subject, and subjects, but I do dig that “this is the world we live in” stance in photography. If it avoids pretension, as you do here, we get straight to what is in the frame. Always refreshing.

    Good solid work, maybe lacking a little edge, and some strong photos, as with a bit more psychology (any), a bit more involving/accosting us as viewers.

    I like the PJ treatment, rather than strict portraiture, which indeed helps you kill 2 birds, professional and personal, with one stone. With the risk of dilution of the artistic aim that can come with any such duality in stance.

  • really enjoyed how these hang together as a set. some beautiful portraits in here…captivating. great work

  • Grate work!
    The only pictures I don’t like are 2 and 10, the bodybuilders, don’t know why… maybe cause they are too obvious.
    Pic n 3: Crazy! Will like to have more text in the caption… How can somebody do that to herself?

  • Love this Andrea. One of my favorites. I remember the photo of the woman on top of the man at David’s loft. I think you were in the class just before mine in 07. Or maybe not. But did see this on the wall and at the time it made me cringe. However, in relationship to the whole essay it really works. Although some say it is work that has been done before so has everything. You give this subject a nice touch. It feels as though you have a relationship with everyone in these photos and that is hard to achieve. Congrats. In response to the bodybuilder comment, I had the same response. Perhaps it is due to the number of them. I like the solitary bodybuilder with the landscape around him; the group photo was extra that didn’t serve as well as the single.

  • Congratulations Andrea, some good photographs here. You mention that the stories are published individually as they are produced and then enter the collection earmarked for a book. As such I find the essay a little disjointed because they have been produced, obviously, at different times and don’t seem to be harmonious in some way. It’s a mixture of documentary and portraiture and I feel that you should decide on which is going to be dominant in your book.

    I’d go for documentary. For instance, number 3, the sequence featuring Miss Romy, and Liz and friends are intriguing and I want to know more about them and their lives. The boxer and number 11 don’t seem to fit.

    In a book I want to be informed by visually complex photographs and entertaining text. The photographs have to be complex enough for me to find something new each time I pick up the book. Portraits alone would probably not hold my attention or prompt me to buy the book in the first place. Exceptions such as Richard Avedon and Albert Watson spring immediately to mind.

    This is not a critique, just my thoughts and I hope they help.

    Best wishes,


  • Thoroughly engrossing. We humans are such weird creatures.

  • Very compelling. Well photographed. Enjoyed it.

  • Congratulations for the work and for tackling this subject, I can see it means a lot to you.. Thank you

  • Original photographic investigation, well developed through a variety of situations. I personally would remove the shot of the two models on the catwalk: it’s not up to the general standard of the essay.

  • Andrea this is so very interesting, but I wish it was something that non-photographer folks would want to view. It’s so high-minded that I wonder who else wants to view this other than us.

    Call me crazy… but what is Andrea trying to communicate? Variety is the spice of life and she has proven that. The context is so rich

    Thank you David for putting this out here. It’s a great piece for the visually sensitive crowd.

  • Andrea,

    I really enjoyed you essay. Some fantastic images and all superbly photographed. Having access also helps as you have been invited into some of these scenarios. I really like those on the U-Bahn. Congratulations on being published on Burn, and best of luck for the future.


  • Gustav Liliequist

    Terrific work! You have sucessfully sewn together very strong shots from a number of different situations/assignments under a common theme.

  • Andrea, I love that you were able to tie together the personal work with the hired work. It’s not an easy task to achieve, and you’ve definitely succeeded. It will be interesting to see where it goes now that you’re completely cognizant of this end which you seek. I love that the story speaks on so many different people feeling so differently… We definitely are strange creatures…. I think it would be interesting to explore young children’s body image (you did show a glimpse of this) and how it turns from innocent to something socialized and aware and screaming at us every turn. You’ve obviously already began to achieve this, but I think it would be interesting to capture the moment of that loss of innocence: the moment when our bodies just ARE to when we know what they can do, mean, and how others perceive that in us. Sounds heavy and lofty, but possibly something worth exploring. I really like this body of work, and I would love to see it published. Bravo!

  • I kinda feel like Mike R about the disjointed feel (sheesh, what a bad use of language), will be interesting to see the final product. Very interesting theme and photographs.

  • Really good vibes! Some major photography inside this exellent document!

  • Fascinating series of photos! Made me wonderfully curious as to what was coming next. Must say that the juxtaposition of 14 and 15 tickled my fancy. A few shots are not as strong as others but I’m sure they will be replaced as this essay evolves, especially now that you’re working on it consciously.

    For me a personal favorite was #3. Her expression is so poignant. Elders are a great source of body pics. I know from having done a series of naked women (my friends and myself) aged 54-75. Unique bodies with lots of stories in each scar, sag and stretch mark.

    Great to see your work here on Burn, Andrea. I enjoyed meeting you at DAH’s loft the slideshow weekend last autumn. Hope we meet again.


  • This is really fantastic work. You were able to take a series of what seemed to be unrelated images, and make them work as a complete story. I simply love how everyone is comfortable with their appearance, or at least, what they have made their appearance.

  • I think this work is almost voyeuristic, it holds the attention, and cautions our curiosity. Lovely coverage of the technical aspects of what I think you set out to achieve. It will be nice to see some more of this work. Well done.

    Roll on a Wendy comment ;)

  • Andrea, I really enjoyed your work! An enticing mix of voyeurism, shock, intimidation and confusion. I too think that a couple of images might be misplaced but recognise that the work is evolving and maybe other categories of interest might emerge.

    Excellent; thanks very much.

  • All, thank you so much for nice words and interesting feedback! Since this project develops from week to week, and is not finish yet, I really appriciate your advice and opinions.
    This week I am on vacation in a summerhouse in the middle of nowhere(norway), no internet connection. But I have read through the comments on my phone! It’s a bit difficult to respond to single comments.
    But: the edit I made for epf was different simply because some of these photos are new, actually from last week!
    It is the first time I show the photos in public, all together as the one essay I intend it to be. I have been really concerned how to link all these totally different persons, scenes, places etc together. And, as some of you mention, the style of the pictures differ alot. The photos from the early stage of the project, like no 08, is different from the new ones, ex the ones from the Ubahn (no 21). A lot has happend between those two shots, I have developed a lot as a photographer, technically and the style etc. Somehow I don’t like these old pictures, but on the other hand I think the mixture make the whole thing more interesting. Thats also my opinion on the combination portraits vs reportage.

    Carrie, thanks for interesting response, I have thought about this also… I think I need some youngsters, both boys and girls.

    patricia, think I have never told you that I really appriciated meeting you at David’s, I am a fan of your project and your comment here on burn:)

    All, to read your comments inspires me and some will surely be taken notice of. I am so so happy David will support me to reach the final goal, he actually made me realize that I, Andrea, can make a book!! Wow! Not only the super photographers in magnum etc. So I look forward to edit with you David, and share the result with you burnians at some point..

    Now, going out fishing in the fjord!

    cheers and thank you! Andrea

  • Wonderful work, great project. I hope we will see more.

  • Upsi, just forgot to mention that if any of you know places, persons, happenings etc that would be interesting for this project, you are more than welcome to send an email..!

    xxx Andrea

  • Andrea, this is a very enlightening essay – thanks for doing it, and for submitting it here.
    My initial reaction was puzzlement because your written introduction seems very impassioned, while the imagery suggests emotional detachment on your part. I put it down to being in the photo-journalistic documentary style, in this case without a bias.
    I then realized that with the exception of #11, and possibly #16, your subjects also seem to be emotionally detached – even though you have obviously engaged them.
    I’m left wondering if you and your subjects have this body-image obsession due to being detached from us, or if the detachment is a result of self-image physical obsession?
    It’s not a question I expect an answer to, but this terrific essay is one of those happy instances where the photographer is revealed to us almost as much as those being photographed.
    As to your technique and workmanship, I think it is first-class.


  • Bodies,
    that tell our stories…
    lovely set of images..
    the 1st shot with little girl in tub,
    barbie on floor…
    set the mood…
    we all have our stories….
    your sensitivity
    comes thru in each frame…
    non judgmental,
    strong BODY
    of work…..

  • Love this Andrea. Great concept and great photos. congratulations.
    I agree with some of the others…maybe a few weak shots but as you continue to shoot they will be replaced with stronger ones. Can’t wait to see the next edit.

  • Good work but not new or challenging. I agree with Herve on all points. It needs more edginess to push it to the next rung.

    I haven’t yet figured out how to see the burn competition portfolios yet.

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