Ever wondered what gives Northern that special sparkle? Or creates our mysterious sense of magic and mood?
Then say hello to photographer Chris Opander Tonnesen and stylist Per Olav Sølvberg, the duo who style and photograph our products. Based in Copenhagen and Bergen respectively, the two team up from time to time to document Northern’s new designs. Their collaborations are usually characterised by friendly banter, goofy jokes and raucous laughter. We just leave them to it, knowing that once the sparks have started to fly, an explosion of creativity will follow.
– Why do we like working together? asks Per Olav.
– Because Chris speaks his mind, and I like that. I don’t work with photographers who don’t have opinions. Don’t tell me that I’m the one who knows what looks best. If I actually knew, I wouldn’t have asked.
From Chris’ point of view, Per Olav has an intuitive way of working that creates something special, and a sense of humour that keeps the conversation upbeat.
– Per Olav is always critical about his work so I often joke with him, pretending to complain about how bad everything looks, he says.
– It’s always fun to tease a perfectionist, especially one that does an outstanding job each time.
In just three years of working together, the two men have developed quirks that are more characteristic of long-term relationships than interchanges between colleagues. Chris makes sly adjustments to Per Olav’s carefully positioned props, while Per Olav sneaks over and tweaks Chris’ camera angles and lighting projections. It’s their way of finishing each other’s sentences, each helping the other to channel the creativity where it’s needed most.
According to Per Olav, creativity rarely comes first.
– Research is an important part of my work, so when a brief comes along, it becomes a part of that process, he says.
– At first, I let the brief sink in, then, when I least expect it, ideas start coming to mind.
This is usually Chris’ cue to get things ready on his side.
– Per Olav is the puppet-master of every shoot, and will have ideas about what we can create together. Once I get up to speed with his ideas, I let my own vision unfold.
Chris then bounces his ideas over to Per Olav, and a game of photoshoot Ping-Pong has officially begun. This is the point where Per Olav starts collecting props for the story he wants Chris’ photography to tell.
– I would never do something already seen before, he says.
– Either the story has to be completely new, or we work without one and let the furniture speak for itself.
Chris shares Per Olav’s approach.
– It’s like, the second we are able to visualise with 100% certainty how Northern is supposed to look, we know, because a light bulb goes off.
In an industry turning over faster than Starbucks’ pumpkin spice lattes on Halloween, it can be hard to keep focused. Is it difficult to reflect industry trends without losing the brand’s identity? Per Olav has the answer ready.
– I am absolutely convinced that it’s the furniture itself that creates the brand’s identity, he says.
– Whether you place a Daybe sofa in a New York loft apartment or in a Norwegian forest glade, it really doesn’t matter. The honesty is there. The authenticity comes across. You would still be able to tell that it’s a Northern product.
Chris narrows his eyes to imagine photographing Daybe in the middle of a forest, then nods in agreement.
– Per Olav and I share a certain mindset, which is what makes us a great team. Each of us is a ‘no bullshit’ kind of guy, and that’s the kind of honesty we channel into our work. That’s probably why we are such a good fit for Northern.