Some Kind of Poetry

Words by Anja Bratt
Photography by Trine Hisdal & Andris Søndrol Visdal


Her workdays as a graphic designer were about conceptual and systematic thinking, letting the analytic voice in her head make the final decision. But after some years in the design business, stumbling upon and working with pictures, she fell for photography. Trine Hisdal was fascinated by how a single picture alone could tell a story, without any sort of help from words or other measures. Today the former graphic designer is known for capturing photographs that are incisive, but at the same time have a certain poetic feel to them. 

"I grew up in an artistic home, with my mother working as a designer and my sister as an artist. I was born several years after my two siblings, so during my childhood, it was often just me and my parents. I spent most vacations and weekends drawing."

Trine, who is now working fulltime as a photographer, believes that the creative environment she grew up in, had an impact on her career choices. "As a person I’m quite indecisive. I think I ended up choosing graphic design hoping that it would give me a general insight in how to think conceptually and how to work visually—and of course, designing cool stuff, like books and album covers, seemed like a lot of fun," Trine says.

Before Trine made that final decision to study graphic design, she was walking around in the library in her hometown Bergen, scouting for new books. This day she discovered one created by the American graphic designer and art director David Carson. "It was the most beautiful book I’d ever seen. The expression—it was a completely new world that didn’t resemble anything else. Me finding this book —it felt like a sign telling me to study graphic design."

After graduating high school, Trine started at the Norwegian School of Creative Studies. Here she built a portfolio, before applying to further graphic studies. In 2002 she moved to Bournemouth in England, and started on a bachelor degree in graphic design at the Arts University Bournemouth. 

"It was a relatively small school, where we were kept in place through all three years. The time there was intense and the learning curve steep—and we ate a lot of fried food! In general, the school focused on the creative process, and we had to document every project carefully from start to finish. The final result was not that important. Although I didn’t see it at that time, this way of working made me very aware of the entire work process and the importance of it." 

After completing her bachelor’s degree in Bournemouth, Trine moved home to Bergen, and started working at the design agency Haltenbanken, before she continued to work as a freelancer for four years. During her time working as a graphic designer, Trine often encountered photography.

"My interest for photography didn’t suddenly appear—I’ve always been fascinated by it. I think my fascination started at a very young age, flipping through my mother’s fashion magazines on a daily basis. But later, with graphic work, it often hit me how a picture alone could tell so much—a whole story." 

This acknowledgment, and a sad heartbreak, made Trine start shooting pictures of her own. "It started out as some sort of therapy, but also an exploration of photography as a medium. After I had photographed for a while, I understood that this was what I wanted to work with." 

Today she has two years of photography studies at Bilder Nordic School of Photography behind her. In 2013 Trine was awarded with bronze at Gullsnitt—the national award for advertising photography, in the category Newcomer of the year. She is now represented by Tinagent, a Norway based photographic agency specializing in still life and commercial photography. As a photographer Trine is known for a crystal clear eye, but she still manages to always leave something poetic in her pictures. 

"I seek simplicity. When I shoot, I like to peel away as much as I can—purity is what’s natural to me. Regardless of genre, I want there to be a presence in everything I do. I always strive for that. There has to be sincerity in the pictures I take, whether they’re constructed or not. I believe it’s only then a photograph can really affect someone or describe something, and that the picture will, if I am lucky, resonate with the viewer." 

When Trine started studying photography, it soon hit her that the work process of a designer was quite similar to the one of photographers. Today she believes her graphic background still has an impact on her workday, especially during the initial phase of a project. 

"Designing taught me conceptual and holistic thinking, and I consider my background an important experience. When planning a shoot, I often use the same work process as before. I always start with research, and I often create a mood board that I adjust in collaboration with clients. This works as a guideline through the whole project." Still, when it comes to photography, Trine tries to trust her instincts and give her gut feeling more space when making decisions.

I’m working on turning off this practical way of thinking, and to trust my initial feelings. I feel like the design part of me exists in my head—as in how I think systematically and analytic, and that the photographic part of me lives in my stomach and in my heart.

After only a few years in the business, Trine has already worked with a lot of great names in Norway. Meeting new people on shoots is one of the things Trine enjoys most about her work. "I’ve been lucky enough to take pictures of many exciting people, which has resulted in some great meetings — Charlotte Thiis Evensen and Jenny Hval, to mention a couple. Also I think it’s great fun to work with clients who give me a lot of creative space. Like the print collection Flora, that I made for the lifestyle store Røst. The poster series was sold as a numbered edition in the store, but it was also used as a part of their visual identity for a short period of time.
It was a combination of ornamentation, branding and product development—a fine combination!"

Trine’s days are now filled with photographic work. She says that she always knew that she wanted to work with something creative, but she was never really sure of just what—until now. Even though she now has found her path in life, there are times when she leaves the camera behind. "I see my job not only as work, but also as my own projects. I’m the kind of person who needs to get some distance to photography in between shoots. I need to reset."

The photographer resets by running and meditating, both with varying success, she says with a smile on her face. She also resets and gets inspired by looking at other photographers’ work and listening to music. 

"Right now I’m very fascinated by Leonard Cohen, and I think most of my work these days is subconsciously inspired by him and his music. Otherwise the Norwegian photographer Tom Sandberg is a great inspiration—the simplicity and complexity in his pictures. And Paolo Roversi and his color palettes and melancholy. And also Viviane Sassen for her pure graphic expressions, and her imaginative and unexpected compositions."

The photographer has a busy autumn ahead of her. Trine says she’s superstitious and would rather not tell us her dreams for the future. But when it comes to what she wants for the world, she’s quite clear: "More empathy and less selfies!"