Anne-Stine Johnsbråten – East side to West side Youth Culture in Oslo

Johnsbråten, born in 1983 on the eastern part of Oslo, is an independent documentary photographer. Her main style of work includes combining reporting stories with portrait images to explore topics like gender, identity and discrimination. She spends a long time on each of her projects to really connect with the story and the people involved, allowing her images have a real meaning. Some of these long-term projects have been exhibited in galleries and festivals in Norway and abroad, not just getting her name out there but the message within the images as well. She has covered subjects from her family to how the workers in Bangladesh are treated.

Her work of the ‘East side – West side – Youth Culture in Oslo’ is a series of hers that has inspired me. In Oslo August 1624, there was a huge fire that destroyed the city. When it came to the rebuilding of the city King Christian IV said it would be near Akershus Castle Fortress. He also decided that it would be best to split the rich and the poor into different areas on opposite sides of the city. This divide had the rich community in the West Side and the poor working class in the East Side. As the years went on the divide become more and more present. Within her work Johnsbråten tells this story through two groups of teen girls from opposite sides of the city, questioning how different the two are brought up, how people deal with the split and are the people really that different.

East Side-

West Side-

All of her images are in colour as she’s documenting the lives of teenage girls and if she were to edit the images into black and white it would take some of the story away. In some of her images there is a colour or two that does brighten up the image, allowing the life of the image be brought out. You can tell she thinks a lot about the composition of her images, as all the subjects in her images are places perfectly in the frame. There isn’t an image were she has framed her subject in the centre of the frame, incorporating the use of rule of thirds. I feel by doing this it allows us at the viewer to look at the setting/ location of the image that really sets the scene. The majority of her images have a wide angle, including the whole body of the subject, not really honing in the details. It’s like she’s a fly on the wall in the way she is using different angles, levels and viewpoints that really makes the images interesting. A lot of her images are taken using daylight; this allows the images to be lit well without crating harsh shadows or an orange glow. For the images that use artificial light you can tell she has paid close attention to the while balance and where the light is that is actually lighting the frame. I feel she uses a low aperture as this allows the shot to be lit better but creates a depth of filed but this doesn’t affect her images at she is focusing on how her subjects live their lives. The editing quite light and natural as with documentary you don’t want to take away from the focus of the models.

I love how she has really captured the contrast of the more privileged West side compared to the more second-class East siders. You can clearly tell they have been brought up in a different way, but at the end of the day they’re all teenagers who want to have fun while they still can. I really like the casual approach she took to this project, really capturing the true spirits of the subjects. Even though Johnsbråten is from the Eastside she is still objective while taking the images. I like how she’s captured a lot of fun and real emotions, shedding light on how the other side live. Once I knew the context behind the images I loved the series even more, as it was telling an on going story of two sides of the same country were divided, showing us the differences and the similarities. While taking my images I will think about Johnsbråten and how she was documenting how different people of the same age live and I want to take that thought and put my own twist on it.


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