Clear Expressions

Photography by Desiree Mattson
Words by Veronica Mike Solheim


Story originally published in Volume Six.


What is it with photographs that makes us fall in love with them? Walking at museums or galleries, I can’t tell how many times I wish I could take a photograph with me and put it on the wall over my bed, just so I could look at it every single morning. Yet, I never quite manage to describe what it is, just that the picture have some kind of nerve—an emotion, a message talking directly to me—inviting me to become a part of it; the moment, the universe, the mind of its creator.

For a few years Desiree wanted to become a chef. She was fifteen and it was before her teachers at the food class forced her to taste squid and fish stock. Let’s just say it wasn’t for her. She went on working at a kindergarten, then some years as a youth worker, before she remembered a passion she first discovered at the age of nine.

"Even though I’ve had other jobs, my interest always came back to photography. It’s a way of expression that has many opportunities. I love the diversity of the field, the creativity, the people I get to meet. There is simply so much joy in this profession," says Desiree.

Desiree, portrayed by her finacé Ruben Kristiansen

Desiree, portrayed by her finacé Ruben Kristiansen

Desiree Mattsson is now an acclaimed photographer, shooting for the worlds leading magazines like Vogue, VS Magazine, Numéro, Harper’s Bazaar and Marie Claire, among others. But no matter where you see her photographs or who’s printing them, I’m sure you can spot her signature look. A look inspired by her northern roots and love for nature. We’re talking hard contrasts, a dark and mysterious mood, often black and white. Sexy is definitely a good description.

"I’m a very specific person. When I like something, I really like it. You know those who listens to a song so many times that they end up destroying it? Or people who watch a movie fourteen times? I’m that person. I can’t get enough of what I like. You can call it insanity or you can call it dedication."

She’s telling the truth. Desiree thinks she has seen Pulp Fiction by Quentin Tarantino at least twenty times. She recently watched The Hateful Eight, also directed by Tarantino, at the cinema with her fiancée and they decided to see Pulp Fiction (again) later the same night. 

"I love Tarantino. There are so much honesty, frustration and really good casting in his movies. Not to talk about the music. And the visual universe. Tarantino is a genius. I just spoke with someone about what a major success he would have if he would decide to quit film and start doing photography instead."

It’s safe to say that Desiree loves creatives and photographers with a specific style. On her list of source of inspiration she has Peter Lindbergh, Irving Penn, Richard Avedon, Hemlut Newton, Lillian Bassmann, Guy Bourdin, Erwin Blumenfeld and Lousie Dahl Wolfe. Just to mention a few. All known for their signature style and emotional expression. This is something Desiree wants to see more of.

"I see so many up and coming photographers these days, who gets a lot of work, but I don’t see any emotions in the pictures. Everything is supposed to happen so fast these days, it feels as if photography has become mass production. Pictures are forgotten the moment after we see them. I want to see more pride in the profession. We should give a little more, dare to take more chances. There should definitely be higher demands when it comes to fashion photography—we need editors that dares to show power in a way that calls for reactions. Not just sell clothes and get advertisers."

After years of traveling and living abroad, Desiree is now based in Oslo with her fiancée Ruben. 

They live in a daylight apartment, built with photography in mind. Since Ruben happens to be a retoucher, they’ve been working a lot together over the years. Even though Desiree do a lot by her self, Ruben has done retouch on many of her series. They recently shot series for Numéro, VS Magazine and Vogue in their living room. 

"I love working with Ruben, I have great respect for what he does and the person he is. Luckily, after many years of frustration from his side, he now understands what I want, what I like and what I don’t like. It helps that I’m very specific when it comes to photography."

Even though time and experience is a great teacher, Desiree think it’s important to listen to your gut if you want to discover what your photographic signature could be. She says that it’s important to feel it, deep down, and to not let yourself influence by others. If you like it, then it really doesn’t matter if there are fifteen people on the sideline, trying to make you take another way. 

"For me it became clear when I realized that everything doesn’t have to be all smily, light and perfect all the time. I love creepy elements and clean, strong expressions. I love capturing people who dare to show who they are. Strength and vulnerability, I find nothing more beautiful."