Interview with John T. Pedersen from Norway

Hanyu Mu | MUSE Creative Awards
Interview with Hanyu Mu from United States
October 12, 2023
MUSE Hotel Awards Officially Reveals 2023 S2 Category Winners of the Year
October 13, 2023

John T. Pedersen | European Photography Awards

John T. Pedersen

John T. Pedersen, a 56-year-old Norwegian independent photojournalist, has been a professional photographer since 1988. His work spans newspapers, trade press, magazines, and agencies, with a strong focus on humanitarian issues in his personal projects. He is also a contributor to the national newspaper Dagbladet in Oslo.

Interview With The 2023 European Photography Category Winner of the Year - John T. Pedersen

1Can you introduce yourself and talk about how you got into photography?

My name is John T. Pedersen and I’m a 56 year old independent photojournalist from Norway. I have worked as a professional photographer since 1988 and done assignments for newspapers, trade press, magazines and agencies. Focusing especially on humanitarian issues during my own projects. In my everyday photography, I am affiliated with the national newspaper Dagbladet in Oslo.

My photography journey began during my childhood. At the age of 11, my father gave me my first camera, and I immediately became captivated by it. Later on, the interest expanded when I discovered the joy of developing the images in the darkroom. It was fascinating and exciting to observe the images come to life in the darkroom, and to the final prints.

Photography is not just a hobby for me; I always have a camera by my side. When it comes to family gatherings, capturing moments with my grandchildren, or any spontaneous opportunities that arise during my travels, I always have my camera ready.

Photography is a lifestyle I have become addicted to. Whether it's a job or a hobby doesn't matter. Photography is always exciting, challenging and liberating.

2Where did you study photography?

I decided to study photography as a secondary subject in high school. It was during this time that I had my first encounter with the enchanting process of developing an exposed film and transforming it into a finished print. This was a significant moment for a 14-year-old boy with a keen interest in photography.

Following that, I began teaching myself photography by perusing magazines, books, and other resources. After a few years, I eventually found myself working as a photographer for a newspaper.

3Do you remember your first shot? What was it?

I received my first camera, an Olympus XA, as a gift from my dad when I was 11 years old. At the time, I was slightly disappointed that it wasn't an SLR camera with interchangeable lenses. However, I quickly immersed myself in photography, with my younger brother becoming the primary subject of my enthusiasm for capturing moments.

My first photo published in a newspaper was from an athletics event. A friend of mine was a journalist. He needed a photographer and I came to his rescue!

4What equipment do you use?
I use Leica on my own projects. A Leica M10-r with various lenses, as well as a Q2. The pictures from my winning entry "Survive in Katanga" were photographed with the Leica M10-r.
5What compliment inspired/touched you the most?
I frequently hear that people feel at ease and confident in my presence, both as a person and as a photographer.
6What THREE (3) words describe your photography style?
Honest, direct and respectful.
7Congratulations! As the winner of the European Photography Awards, what does it mean for you and your team to receive this distinction?
I am honoured and humble to be the Category Winner of the 2023 European Photography Awards in the category People Photography – Environmental. It is a great recognition that the jury has recognised the images and history of this particular project. And it gives a hint that I have done things correctly.
8Can you explain a bit about the winning work you entered into the 2023 European Photography Awards, and why you chose to enter this project?

In 2018, I made a visit to the Rhino boxing club in Uganda, situated in Katanga, one of Kampala's largest slums. It was during this visit that I had the pleasure of meeting Moreen Ajambo, a 30-year-old member of the Ugandan women's national boxing team.

Moreen, a mother of seven, resides in dire conditions, cramped into a tiny six-square-meter living space. Her primary aspiration is to compete in the 2024 Olympics in Paris, and she views boxing as her sole chance to secure a brighter future for herself and her children. In the absence of any form of assistance, she was essentially battling for survival.

But this is by no means just a story about sports. Ajambo has a strong human story that deals with both attempted abuse, domestic violence, the loss of a brother growing up due to malnutrition, as well as the loss of both her stepfather and a mother, who was very close to her to AIDS. A story about both injustice, courage and not least love and hope.

I wanted to follow her life in Katanga, document her fight for herself and her children for a better life outside the slums. There have been three trips to Uganda, the last meeting with Moreen was in the spring of 2023. I will continue to document her in Katanga.

For me, it is important to document the stories that are not among the dominant ones in the daily news , but which are just as important to tell.

9How has winning an award developed your career?

First and foremost, receiving such a fantastic award is a tremendous source of motivation. It inspires me to persist in my endeavours, working on ideas and projects. However, it's not solely about us photographers. It's about the individuals we encounter on our journey, listening to their narratives, capturing their lives through our lens in both favourable and challenging circumstances, and subsequently sharing these stories.

Through interactions with a diverse range of people, I have evolved into a more skilled photographer over the years, but more importantly, I have grown as a better human being. If we cease to document these human stories, we run the risk of losing sight of the true essence of the world.

10Name 1-3 photographers who have inspired you.

There are so many talented photographers in any genres. So it is difficult to single out any names. Some photographers are good at colour, others at black and white photography.

As a photojournalist, you are involved in most forms of photography but it is especially the photographers who document and tell the good and bad stories of the people who need to be heard.

Photography wields significant influence, and numerous individuals endeavour to share their photographs with the world. Therefore, it's crucial to acknowledge and recognise all the exceptional photographers who contribute their work.

11What was the best piece of advice you were given starting out, by a mentor or your role model?

The worst advice ended up being the best.

In my youth, when I first discovered photography, I was told by a local and boring portrait studio photographer that photography was not the way to go, there was no future in it. I thought, well, we'll see! He gave me an indirect boost, that this will be exciting to try out.

12What advice would you give someone who would like to become a photographer today?
Photograph a lot, study other photographers, and the genre you want to develop in. Have faith in what you do!
13What is your key to success? Any parting words of wisdom?
As a photographer, it is important to show respect and humility. For me, the main tool is not my camera, but my voice. Talking to the people you meet. If you want to get close to people, you must be able to communicate. And most importantly: Being a fellow human being.

Winning Entries

John T. Pedersen

John T. Pedersen, a 56-year-old Norwegian independent photojournalist, has been a professional photographer since 1988. His work spans newspapers, trade press, magazines, and agencies, with a strong focus on humanitarian issues in his personal projects. He is also a contributor to the national newspaper Dagbladet in Oslo.

Read more about this interview with Kazutoshi Kawakami from Japan, the Category Winner of the 2023 European Photography Awards.