My name is Jarle Hagen and I work as a lifestyle and commercial photographer, specializing in life, people, food, travel and automotive photography. My background is actually as an Art Director in the AD agency industry for 14 years, before I started as a professional photographer. I wanted to go to Brooks Institute of Photography in the beginning of the 1990’s but went on studying product design in London instead, followed by Art Director studies in Oslo. I had the opportunity of working at various advertising agencies and have worked in this industry for about 14 years in Oslo and Trondheim. I have worked with large clients, and have had the responsibility for clients like Lexus in Norway. I have always taken photos. And working in advertising, I have done the images on many of my campaigns myself and worked with the Leica Summilux.
My girlfriend and I started the Norwegian exclusive tie company SPTZBRGN in 2009. I still worked as an art director in an advertising agency, and after 2009 I did all the photography on our campaigns myself.
Around 2011-12 I went all the way, and followed my heart, and went on to what I truly loved to do – and became a photographer 100%. I did not feel I could do both anymore. The field of photography is so comprehensive. And I really felt I had to learn it all. I really became obsessed with lighting and techniques and bought all the light shapers Profoto and Bron has in their assortment. I ran thorough tests, so I could create the look and feel I wanted for different images and create different styles.
Equipment became very important to me. I tested out a lot of different camera and lighting systems, and ended up with Leica and Profoto. I now shoot with both the M, SL and the S-systems. I have not regretted that decision. Leica has worked as a dream the last years. I have owned different digital medium format systems before. But it was not before I got my hands on a Leica S, I felt I had the tool for me. Handling and image quality wise.
I also shoot with the M system. But after the SL came, it is no longer used for professional assignments. But it’s always on my back, as a documentary camera.
With the SL, shooting with ambient light, became something very different. You are able to shoot “real-time», witch gives me the opportunity to shoot in a totally different way. Ambient lighting and natural look is very in at the moment. And I’m very much drawn to the natural look for the time being. Even when I’m shooting with strobes. On many of my assignments I looks for ways of making it look natural. I have worked for years striven to make «natural light» with strobes. I have found a way, that I’m quite pleased with, using a mix of light shaping tools. In Norway we have a really long and dark winter, and are forced to use strobes in parts of the year creating our imagery. But we also have light and beautiful summers (midnight sun).
I think having the background as an creative in the advertising industry for so long has given me a special understanding and position. I prefer to come in early in the creative process of a campaign, and to be able to come up with ideas and being able to shape the campaign. But even when I’m not, I have advantages to see what the Art Directors or the creatives are after.
In the beginning as an art director, I was very much about not having a signature, but to be able to understand and make different styles and designs. I later searched myself and found out what I was about, and started to create my personal style. I have done the same with photography. And the last two years have been extremely exiting for me. This summer I was contacted by SeeManagement in NYC. And are now represented by them.
The Leica Summilux-SL 1.4/50mm
It started when I had a dialogue with Steffen Skopp in Leica about the SL system, and Steffen asked me if I would be interested in testing out the new SL 1.4/50mm lens. I said absolutely! Of my understanding the lens is created to set a different standard when it comes to sharpness, but also to have a special bokeh. I can certainly confirm both.
I had long been searching for equipment with personality. I even tested out really old lenses to see what they could give me. I’m in a period now when I search for distinguished looks to enhance my personal style. My brother is a successful director in Los Angeles and I often ask him for special tips and tricks. I really love the cinematic look. And there are many tips & tricks to learn from the industry.
I have started to work with hazers and smoke machines, to create more of a film look to the images. Natural haze and is one of the most interesting things to work with in my book. But that is not always available. So using hazers and smoke machines and natural smoke is essential to create what I’m after. Many modern digital cameras are extremely sharp and without personality.
This project actually started as a job for a client but ended up as an personal project (for Leica). The smog was laying thick, and it was a dream situation for me. I had not had the opportunity to use the 1.4/50mm lens exclusively for a project, so I thought I should really test it. The result was a mind blowing for me. It gave me exactly what I had been searching for. I tested it fully open (1.4) on almost all of the images. And the bokeh on its is just excitingly beautiful!
The lens has a extremely beautiful look with its sharpness and different and exceptional bokeh. Also the contrasts and colors are extremely good.
Combining this with the SL-system’s extremely fast autofocus – this lens is truly something of it’s own.
To know more about Jarle Hagen’s work, please visit his official website.