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Nina Tberg
Nina Tberg

May 16 : 2023

Nina Tberg

Nina's image 'Train ride' felt immediately nostalgic, even if that nostalgia wasn't rooted in a specific memory. The joy of waking up in a new city and traveling to a new place is at the center of this 3rd place winning image.

by Lily Fierman

2:00 minutes read

Image: Train ride

Q:

Tell us more about the circumstances of creating your winning photo: ‘Train ride.’

A:

I have been living in Beijing with my husband and our two children since 2014. In 2021, at the height of the covid-19 pandemic, it was not possible for us to travel to our families in Germany because of the travel restrictions to come back into China. But we had set our minds to make the best of it and we took every opportunity to discover parts of this country we had not yet been to before. In the summer of 2021, we flew 4000 km west from Beijing to Ürümqi in Xingjiang province and from there we took a night train to Kashgar, close to the borders with Kyrgizstan and Tajikistan, and that is where this picture was made.

I don’t really enjoy flying so travelling by train always has my preference. You get a much closer feeling of distance when you travel slowly, for hours. Time passes to the rhythmic beating of the iron wheels on the tracks, while you see the scenery and the sky change, the people change, the languages change, the food changes, and you have the time to observe and consume it all. Yes, it does have something romantic, even though it’s not always the most comfortable or cleanest way to travel. This was our first time ever on a night train, we were all pretty excited. The picture captures the moment when our children jumped onto the upper beds and checked if they could touch each other with their feet, while we installed ourselves comfortably, facemasks within reach, chips, cookies, some drinks and some grapes we harvested at a vineyard we visited just before the trainride.

I do like this picture a lot as well, as it captures so many personal layers. It’s a frozen moment of the four of us, tightly together in this huge adventure, making us feel at home wherever we are going together.

We capture life as it is. I don’t ask people to pose, and I don’t clean the area for toys. Every detail connects parts of the story I want to tell by observing and sharing. We catch the spontaneity of life in our cameras and freeze the moments for later.

Q:

On your website, it mentions you are a ‘documentary family photographer’. Can you tell us more about this title, as well as how you arrived there?

A:

Like many, I cannot remember when exactly I started to make pictures, but especially after we moved to China with our children, I felt a need to document our lives here. I started to photograph them and loved the spontaneous, non-staged pictures best. These felt the most honest, the most real, the closest to me. I never looked for the perfect life pictures, so I never tried to hide their sadness nor happiness, their struggles nor the joyful mess they made while playing. I wanted to be sure that later they can see how it really was to grow up in Beijing. I want to freeze the purest scenes of our daily life, without brushing up, without staging, without adding or taking away anything. I developed my style further in that direction and through some courses I discovered there indeed is a name for people like us: we’re documentary family photographers. We capture life as it is. I don’t ask people to pose, and I don’t clean the area for toys. Every detail connects parts of the story I want to tell by observing and sharing. We catch the spontaneity of life in our cameras and freeze the moments for later.

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Q:

Tell us about your process of creating your images and how much or little intervention you have when taking these pictures of your family.

A:

My family has gotten used to seeing me with my cameras I always carry with me, dangling around me. Therefore they don’t pose when I aim or look into the camera and smile - they don’t really notice it anymore. Linked to my approach to photography as I mentioned before, I don’t edit much to my pictures. I (with much frustration) rather trash an almost-perfect picture because of an ugly car that just entered the frame rather than to photoshop it away. I crop a bit, align maybe, but don’t want to take away the honesty in the pictures.

Q:

What’s next on the horizon for you?

A:

I only rather recently feel like I stepped up and became a professional photographer. Being acknowledged in several international competitions (a.o. shortlisted for the Sony World Photography Awards 2022) gave a boost to my confidence. It has strengthened my believe that we are creating a kind of counter- movement to the perfect-life-pictures we are surrounded with in social media. There is so much photoshop and manipulation in photography, creating a totally artificial narrative so many like to believe in. I have found support in my approach that wishes to give more families the opportunity to get real pictures, by allowing a photographer into their homes long enough to catch some intimate real moments of their lives without manipulation. That is also why I started to experiment with analog film photography – there’s not much cheating possible there. It feels like coming back to the origin of photography.

Q:

What is your favorite image you’ve taken and why?

A:

As I always look for a connection between the objects in their picture and the moment, I feel close to many of my pictures, so this is a difficult choice. As mentioned, this train-picture symbolizes much to me in addition to the composition which makes a balanced unity indeed. I also like “rumpelstilskin”, as it catches another story of growing up, our lives in China, a moment in time.

Maybe my favorites are to be found as part of two series: ‘She and her’ and ‘Having a ball’, two stories close to my heart. These stories were finished hardly a year ago, yet in real life I see time has already gone on and these moments now only exist in these photo-series. These are the kind of series that represent me and the kind of photography I achieve.

ARTIST

Nina Tberg

Nina Tberg

Location:

China

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Black & White Photo Contest

Black & White Photo Contest

Extended Submission

Jun 26th - Jul 23rd

The Black & White Photo Contest by reFocus Awards welcomes both individual image and series submissions that honor and explore black and white photography.

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