My name is Jens Juul, and I'm a photographer. I'm trained as both photographer and portrait painter and have also done graphic design for years. I recently won the portraiture category in The Sony World Photography Awards with my series Six Degrees.
About my way of working with photography: Strong impressions form the motive power of my work. Behind a strong impression always lies an interesting and often untold story. Of course the strong impressions can be seen on the news, where we daily watch pictures from global hot spots or places hit by sudden disasters. These pictures any photographer can chase in competition with other photographers with access to the same news channels. But apart from the spectacular and crisis hit places I actually believe that strong impressions can be found around all of us. My morning bike ride to take my children to school is often cause of great inspiration. The story is right on your doorstep. It is just a matter of seeing it and of really seeing the people who are part of the tapestry of your daily life, and then of finding your angle and the courage to step across the boundary between yourself and other people formed by each person¹s privacy sphere even to those strangers who may at times seem dangerous and intimidating.
About Six Degrees of Copenhagen: My photo series Six Degrees of Copenhagen is a textbook example of breaking this boundary. The way I work is that I approach someone I don't know, be it on the street, in a supermarket or at a social event. I ask if I can portray them in their homes and then I pay them a visit. The visit usually lasts a couple of hours or however long it takes to break the ice and get just the right shot of the subject. I then ask them to pass the torch so to speak and recommend someone in their own network that I can portray in the same way. I got the idea from the theory of six degrees of separation - the notion that all people on Earth are connected in the sixth degree. There is nothing scientific about my work, though, and I'm not trying to show the extent of human networks. It is a way of working that magically enables me to travel through a city and meeting its inhabitants. I've come across all walks of life, old and young, and I have seen many different ways of life. If you meet people without prejudice and with a lot of curiosity it really is amazing how willing they are to share their experiences and the insights they've gained. In that way my work is a journey into the minds and lives of other people.
About Inmates: A third project I am working on is a book project about being an inmate in a prison. The Inmate project takes its point of departure in a profound curiosity regarding the consequences of being punished with long-term imprisonment to someone's life. The project focuses on the life conditions of long-term inmates in Danish prisons. What do inmates think about their own lives, their relationships with people both inside and out of prison, and what kinds of hopes and expectations do they have about the future? The project will be using a combination of interviews, portraits and picture documentation of the everyday life in Danish prisons to tell the story of inmates. The aim is to publish a book with ten interviews and approximately 75 pictures. I'm looking into crowd funding possibilities, and am also considering making an electronic version that would keep production costs down and provide a possibility of layering information. Through the Danish Prison and Probation Service I have been granted access to the Danish prisons. In some prisons I have only been allowed to take pictures of architectural details. In other prisons I have been escorted around by prison employees, who have opened and locked doors for me, and walked me through the different parts of the prison. In yet other places I have been permitted to move around freely, and take all the pictures I wanted, as long as I got permission from the inmates first. In total I have been granted a much higher degree of access than I had ever dreamt of when I made the first phone call in order to get into prison. But why on Earth, one might ask, am I giving criminals that have harmed fellow human beings a chance to express themselves? And why would I offer them to have their portraits and pictures of their everyday life grace the pages of a book, and even do so in a book looking all luxurious with big pictures? The answer is simple, really: Because their voices to a large extent are missing in the public debate. There are black holes, so to speak, in the public's map when it comes to the realities and consequences of incarceration. What is it like? Really? In Denmark, imprisonment is largely seen as punishment, but with an agenda of offering possibilities for resocialization, and only severely hardened or mentally ill inmates have little prospect of ever getting out. However, reality is that resocialization is difficult, even in a social-liberal welfare state like Denmark. The question then is: if prison breeds more criminals, how does society benefit from locking people away? It is my ambition to start a public debate about the relationship between justice, punishment, revenge and resocialization that will hopefully engage both the public and the politicians. Each year, so many families live with the consequences of crime. Children of criminals and victims alike are growing up with the effects of crime and punishment. So we'd better make it count! And to return to the relationship to our personal networks and the use of them, my work inside the prison walls has shown me that much crime is committed by individuals whose networks have been insufficiently present. A lack of care and love early in life, but also a lack of engagement from the personal circle of acquaintances. Instead of stepping in when people are in trouble, we turn our heads away to avoid becoming a part of the problem. A lot of human misery could be avoided if only we dared to get involved and show some interest in the lives of our fellow human beings!
2013 Winner of the Sony World Photography Awards 2013 in the portraiture category
2013 Finalist in KL International Photoawards 2013 in the Portrait Category.
2013 Selected for a Spotlight Award in the Black & White Portfolio Contest 2013
2013 4th place for the Su-ture 1st Edition by Gomma, 2013