GT Nergaard

«do as little as possible»

In GT Nergaard’s photographic practice, the intersection between fiction and reality offers the grand gesture of self-portraiture. Every photograph reflects his journey towards discovering personal narratives that have shaped his background, artistry, and thoughts. As he builds his themes around these philosophies, he creates photographs based on his imagination and observes a situation through his lens, all while forming a bond of who he is and how he wants himself to be.

Through a monochromatic palette, the Norwegian photographer includes his viewers as he fuses self with nature. A Vitalist at heart, he employs the life force in living things to calculate his shots and summon delicacy, grace, and rawness in his photographs. With the sun as his source of light in the day and the flash of his camera at night, GT captures the interaction between man and nature, eliciting poetry in visuals and autobiography in practice.

Let us begin with the two sections that divide your online portfolio: North and South. Do these pertain to certain locations? What was your idea behind these projects? What did you aim to capture?

The inspiration for my work comes from the locations I photograph in, using the sun as my main light source. Based on climate, I work simultaneously between these two projects in different locations: one in the summer where I shoot in Norway, and the other in the winter where I travel to southern regions, North and South.

For the last ten summers, I have been working on the Storvatn project, recently published as a book. Storvatn is the name of the lake where my family had a cabin thirty years ago and my childhood paradise. In this project, I travel back to the lake in search of my own identity and to reconcile with my past, the time being just as long I have been working on a project in Essaouira, Morocco. Then, when the winter in Norway is at its darkest, I travel to a warmer climate. The project is a very personal and poetic interpretation of Morocco with the working title birds of passage and will be published as a book in the Autumn of 2022.

We are excited about this new project you have! This ties up to how you identify your work as at the crossroads between fiction and reality. Why did you settle on these themes and not other elements? How do you define fiction and reality? In your daily life, do you dwell in fiction, reality, or both?

For me, photography is a medium where I first and foremost convey a personal story and a reflection of myself. The work is like a parallel world, where reality and fiction intersect and create a new narrative. I define fiction as creating photographs based on my own imagination. Reality is when I am an observer in a real situation I have not constructed, and where I take photographs without manipulating them.

It is difficult for me to relate to just one of the methods since they are interdependent, just as I relate to a dream world when I sleep and reality when I am awake.

«The dream may appear surreal, abstract, and difficult to interpret, but intends to create a balance in my life to make it easier to deal with reality.»

It is wonderful to know how reality and fiction balance the dynamics of your life. I wonder if this thought is a root of your work, which is strongly influenced by vitalism. Could you elaborate more on this? How did this occur? Was it an intentional choice to pursue it?

Years ago, I saw an exhibition at the Munch Museum in Oslo with the theme Life force – Vitalism as an artistic impulse 1900 – 1930. The term Vitalism comes from the Latin word Vital and is based on the assumption that there is a life force in all living things. The artists in the exhibition represented a distinctive period where body, nature, and health are at the center and the cleansing power of the sun as one of the central themes. Among the Norwegian artists from this period are the painter Edward Munch and the sculptor Gustav Vigeland. Their works show nude people engaged in play, swimming, and sports, with nature as a backdrop.

From the Vitalists, I affirmed my photographic style and a philosophical understanding of my own concepts. I do not draw direct inspiration from their work, but from a common motivation in the theme.

You interpret the interaction between man and nature in your photography. What discoveries about this interaction did you find out that fascinate you and influence your art practice? 

My attraction to nature as a theme comes from a personal need and a simplification of the photographic process. Ten years ago, I worked as a commercial photographer in fashion and advertising. The working day consisted of large productions in the studio, a lot of technical equipment, and a large crew. At one point in my career, I came at a crossroads, where the result was to find my way back to the freedom I felt when I started as a photographer and a simpler working method.

Today, there are no clothes, hair styling, or makeup on my models. Everything is done in an outdoor location, and the sun is the only light source with the exception of an on-camera flash at night.

«None of the images are manipulated or retouched in photoshop. With this simplification, the inspiration to create gradually came back, along with my photographic identity.»

Continuing the previous question, there is a sense of freedom in the way your subjects embrace confidence in their bodies. As a photographer, how do you interact with your subjects? How do you know when to capture the scene? Have there been any challenging times during your shoot?

I depend on finding people I work well with, who are free by nature and have an understanding of the concept. Many of the models are artists themselves and have a clear awareness of their own bodies and identity. They are equal partners who I have worked with for many years and consider my friends.

I prefer to create a natural situation where I can photograph without taking too much direction. The ideal situation is to travel to a location for several days where the narrative and images occur more naturally. In such a setting I can work both day and night, which gives the story a sense of time and space.

I have two ways of directing. In the first, I take a clear direction and do a controlled study, shaping my subject with light and shadow. In the second, I work in a snapshot mode where the subjects are in action and I direct more intuitively.

«I think the alternation between the stylized and the random makes the project more dynamic and playful.»

I have never experienced situations during a shoot that I would describe as challenging, with the exception of the Norwegian climate. In my region, we can experience four seasons in one day, which can make it challenging to work outdoors with nudity.

Your photographs evoke a sense of timelessness through their monochromatic colors. Is there a reason for this choice of style? How do you work with light in this case?

Today, I think it is because I am a monochromatic person. Everything I own is black, white, or natural wood, with only a few touches of color, a natural choice and typically for a Nordic minimalist design.

In the beginning, it was more of a practical choice since all work was processed in the analog darkroom. I have always been attracted to a classic and timeless expression. Not only in photographic references, but in film, music, literature, and design. I draw a lot of inspiration from contemporary references as well, but the classic is always my starting point.

I am often asked how I work and manage to create the specific quality of my photos. The honest answer is: to do as little as possible. I work based on a ‘Pure Photography’ style where the photographs are created through the control of composition, tone, light, and texture. There is no use of manipulation and effects.

To wrap it up, how do you perceive the body, nature, and health? Are they distinctive or combined entities of life? 

Today more than ever, I feel it is important to reflect on the role of humans as part of nature and how dependent we have always been and still are on each other. By taking better care of myself and living sustainably, not only will my health and body improve, but I will also take better care of nature. Everything is interconnected.


Images · GT Nergaard

Michele Oka-Doner

«Repetition itself is life-affirming. The wavelength calming.»

With a career spanning over five decades, American artist and author Michele Oka Doner’s work, which is fuelled by a lifelong study and appreciation of the natural world, is internationally renowned. She has worked across a wide range of mediums including “sculpture, public art, prints, drawings, functional object artist books, costume and set design and other media.”

Doner grew up on Miami Beach, and her love for the natural world comes from her father who was elected a judge and then, mayor of Miami Beach during her childhood. She states that while she loved watching him work in the courtroom, it was his passion for the outdoors that would inform the rest of her life. “As busy as he was, my father would pause to watch a bird sit in a puddle after the rain. He’d stop for a sunset. He paid attention.”

Best known for her public artworks, Doner’s work is seen by tens of millions of people are they are located in areas with high foot traffic. One example of this is ‘A Walk on the Beach’, a mile and a quarter long artwork made of over nine thousand bronzes embedded in terrazzo with mother of pearl, at Miami International Airport. The work is inspired by the marine flora and fauna of Miami.

She continues to make work in her New York studio where she has worked for nearly four decades and the space is crammed with unfinished and competed works, alongside a treasure trove of found objects such as animals bones, shells, stones and fossils. Donna states that she is a “hunter-gatherer” and that despite living in urban New York she is still connected to the natural world. NR Magazine joins the artist in conversation.

You have a longstanding interest in nature, something which your work reflects. How did that interest start and do you think your focus has shifted over the course of your career?

I was enchanted as a child growing up in sub-tropical Miami Beach, close to the water and surrounded by trees. That initial confrontation continues to hold my mind, imagination and has perfumed my life.

You believe that all art begins with the sacred. What does that mean to you?

The word transcendent speaks to that question. What is sacred perhaps is different for each of us. That said, everyone needs to have an I-thou dialogue within, a knowledge of their boundaries when faced with life’s temptations.

You draw inspiration from world histories and folklore. Are there any in particular which are especially meaningful to you? 

I love the Norse myths, over and over I seek their wisdom as well as hopes and fears. The rise and fall of family, also beautifully haunting in their telling. Then there is ‘The Iliad and The Odyssey’ that speak to us of the evolution of feeling, of love, lust, seduction, jealousy.

Naturally occurring shapes and patterns are a key theme within your work. Do you think people often overlook motifs like these in their everyday life and could the quality of their life be improved if they look the time to appreciate such patterns in nature etc? 

Patterns and shapes are magical, repeating over and over in every culture.

«Repetition itself is life-affirming. The wavelength calming.»

Has the pandemic affected how you approach your art practice and if so how? 

The pandemic allowed me time for many things I had set aside until I found time to explore, concentrate deeply. That time has resulted in clarity.

A Walk on The Beach is one of your largest and perhaps most well-known works. Could you tell me about the process of making this work?

The bronzes all came out of Doner studio over the course of 24 years.

«It became ritualised activity, a materialised tone poem, a saga. I carried the notes in my head and composed in my sleep.»

What does identity mean to you as an artist? 

Being called an artist is only an avatar. I have many identities.

How has your experience of being a female artist changed over the course of your career and has that change been for the better? 

I have always fully embraced the feminine aspect. That said, gender is a spectrum.

«We are moving in the direction of a more equitable balance for both genders and I am happy to be flowing in the river of change.»

What advice do you have for young creatives? 

Be a good dog. Dogs don’t dig up other dogs’ bones.

Are you working on any projects at the moment and what plans do you have for the future? 

I am going to be the designated guardian of the banyan tree I grew up under in Miami Beach across the street from my childhood home. It will be declared a natural wonder very soon.



Studio Hagen Hall

«identity is subtle and evident in the design more than anything else»

North London townhouse Canyon House has been transformed from a bedsit into a stunningly vibrant 70’s Californian-inspired home by Studio Hagen Hall, “a multidisciplinary architectural and interior design studio that focuses on crafting exceptional spaces.” The clients, Ben Garrett and Rae Morris are both recording artists and while they fell in love with the essence of the house, including the well-established garden and good location, much work was needed to enliven the place.

Originally the property had been divided into three separate bedsits with the use of awkward partitioning that split the house. The entire interior needed to be gutted and Studio Hagen Hall used digital modelling to reimagine how the space would be used allowing the clients to use a VR headset to experience the design ideas. A recording studio was also incorporated into the new design of the interior. Drawing on 70s influences the intro design is a mix of warm wood, lush mustard velvets and vibrant peaches. NR Magazine joins Louis Hagen Hall, founder of Studio Hagen Hall, in conversation.

What key elements would you say create the 70s atmosphere and design of Canyon House?

I’d say it’s the combination of design features and materiality. We made a conscious decision to try and evoke a 70s atmosphere by means of reinterpretation rather than creating a pastiche of that era. To that end, there are nods to popular features of that era (such as the “conversation pit”, the “kitchen/dining serving hatch” and «open stair”), which we adapted to suit the house. Materially, we used typical materials from that period, such as Elm, velvet, and fluted glass, and chose colours with a particular 70s feel to them. Even the live/work form of the house pays homage to Ray & Charles Eames (the clients are musicians who collaborate and work together).

Are there any new technologies in architecture and design that you are particularly excited about? 

We’re particularly interested in new materials – both re-cycled (for example “Smile Plastics”) and organic (particularly mycelium & hemp, which are starting to become more prevalent in the construction industry).

The re-emergence of old technologies as “new technologies” is also fascinating – such as the use of clay and lime renders and natural insulation (eg paper & wool).

From a design-process point of view – easier and cheaper access to Virtual Reality has made it a very powerful tool. We can now walk clients through a space to better explain it, and even test out designs ourselves and leave annotations in the model in real-time.

What was the most challenging aspect of this project? 

Boiling it down to one sentence – the biggest challenge was trying to make what is essentially a relatively small British terraced property feel like a large free-standing Californian canyon house!

Ultimately we achieved this by spending a lot of time working out how to best reconfigure the house as a whole. We spent a great deal of time working on creating a natural flow throughout the spaces (both visual and circulatory), while also improving the relationship between the interiors and exterior spaces. When it came to the decor itself, we were all very much on the same page – so once we had cracked the layout of the house, the rest came relatively easily.

You stated that people who spend time at Canyon House don’t want to leave, why do you think that is? 

It’s a particularly comfortable, relaxing and sociable space to spend time in, and there are often people coming and going either for work (musicians coming to work with the client in the studio) or friends and family dropping by for a cup of tea. I think it also has something to do with how the light is always changing. Just when you feel like it’s time to leave, the sunlight will shift onto a different surface, changing the mood, or evening will fall and the lights will come on, completely transforming the house again.

What does identity mean to you as an architect?

Obviously, there is a visual identity – which can be hard to maintain across a wide range of projects and clients – although we try to maintain some consistency through the use of details and materials (which in turn relates to our stance on sustainability).

But I think there is a practical identity as well – creating usable, functional spaces, which isn’t always obvious through images. I will often try and show new clients around past projects (luckily I have very supportive clients) to experience this for themselves.

There is also identity in methodology and process, which I think can be apparent through displaying work in progress, drawings, models, etc.

«For us, identity is subtle and evident in the design more than anything else, rather than a case of branding or deliberate market positioning.»

Canyon house was originally separated by awkward partitions into self-contained bedsits and the house had to be stripped back to its shell. Do you think this is a common issue in London and if so does it affect the quality of living?

It is a common issue in London, especially as people try to exploit high rental charges here. And it absolutely affects the quality of living in a negative way – houses are divided up into spaces they were not designed for, resulting in cramped conditions, and quite often bedsits will pose serious fire risks (often due to kitchens being squeezed into bedrooms and hallways).

The ONE positive thing you could say about bedsits is that they do (in an unintentional, ad hoc way) form a sort of cohabitation/communal living typology – something that is being explored more and more these days. But this needs to be designed deliberately to be successful.

How does sustainability fit into your work with Canyon House?

We try to adhere to two main sustainability principles:

1. The principle of ‘embodied energy’ (which is the energy consumed to manufacture, transport, and assemble building materials to construct a building) – so we try to use as few processed materials as possible (eg clay render onto plywood rather than plaster onto plasterboard), as many renewable materials as possible (eg timber – always FSC certified – instead of steel and concrete), and we try to have any off-site items (joinery, fittings etc) produced as locally as possible to cut down on transport and shipping. We are also trying to integrate more and more natural and recycled materials into our projects, which cuts down on overall energy and resource consumption.

2. Re-use or ‘retrofit’ rather than demolish + re-build – renovating an existing building is almost always more environmentally beneficial than demolishing an existing structure and building a more energy-efficient one. So we try to encourage re-use by upgrading and extending structures rather than demolishing and building anew. And where this is not possible, we encourage our clients to work with as much of the existing building fabric as possible. For example, we are working on a new-build house in Dungeness, and while we are having to remove the existing building (because it is completely unsalvageable), we are designing the new building to match the footprint of the existing foundations, which is far more sustainable (and also cost-saving).

 How has the pandemic affected your work practice? 

On the practical side of things, we had to give up our studio as it was part of a large co-working space and it was closed for long periods of time. We eventually got into the swing of working from home, which has had the long term benefit of making everyone (including clients) more comfortable with communicating via video call. This can be very beneficial to a small design practice as it can be hugely time (and therefore cost) saving.

In terms of surviving during the downturn in work – we lost a few new commercial jobs, but we used the downtime to re-brand, re-build websites and social networks, and even launch a new kitchen/joinery practice called “b y s s e” with our long time collaborator and friend, joiner Tim Gaudin.

When things began to open up again, we started working in a smaller co-working space called Benk & Bo (in East London) a few days a week, and now we are working together with them on their new venues! So where some doors closed, others have opened.

Do you have any advice for young creatives looking to work in architecture and design?

I can only speak from experience – but knowing what I know now, I would say don’t rush anything! Take your time to find your creative space and let things happen to you, or you might find yourself going in a direction you didn’t want to. When there are natural breaks (particularly in the case of the time between Undergrad and Masters Degrees for architecture students) take the time to work in, or with, other fields. Volunteer for charities and meet people from all different aspects of life. Travel if you can. Teach if you can. Oh, and make friends with people outside of your field of interest!

I never used to be one for networking, but it turns out interesting things can come out of it. This doesn’t have to mean typical “networking events” – I have met like-minded collaborators at all kinds of different talks and evenings (even things like wine tasting!) Good Architecture and Design comes from experience – not just practical, but cultural.

Also, I feel quite strongly that a lot of students and young creatives feel pressured into qualifying or breaking onto a scene as soon as possible, partly because it takes a long time to qualify and/or become established, but also because we tend to glorify “young achievers” with awards for “best young designer” and publications like the “40 under 40”. Age is irrelevant – take your time, find your own space, and try not to compare yourself to your contemporaries!


«when you need help and advice, don’t be afraid or shy to ask for it. And if someone asks you, don’t hesitate to give it!»

Are you working on any projects at the moment and what plans do you have for the future? 

We are just finishing off three residential refurbishments in East London, then we will be beginning a new cycle of very exciting and diverse projects…from a new-build coastal house in Dungeness, to a fashion house showroom and office, to the restoration of a mid-century masterpiece, to a Japanese inspired victorian townhouse, and a multi-purpose community-driven wood and craft workshop.

We have also just launched a kitchen & storage-specific studio & workshop together with our long-time collaborator and friend, Tim Gaudin – called “b y s s e” (

And we’re finally planning on adding to our team of architects and designers after a long wait, which is hugely exciting! Ultimately we would like to open a second studio in Europe.



Isamu Noguchi

«to be hybrid is to be the future»

The art world, unfortunately, has a certain reputation for snobbery. Everything that is deemed as ‘art’ must, of course, be well thought out, aesthetically intriguing and completely unaffordable for anyone who isn’t part of ‘the rich’. Anything that is actually affordable for people who aren’t part of that income bracket is deemed as ‘low art’. Low art is defined as “for the masses, accessible and easily consumable.”

Over the years this definition has often been criticised alongside the common phrase “art for art’s sake” which was born from definitions like these and “is so culturally pervasive that many people accept it as the “correct” way to classify art.” Thus, it is rather surprising to see such definitions being alluded to in reviews of Noguchi’s exhibition at the Barbican as the artist himself was not a proponent of “art for art’s sake” according to Barbican curator Florence Ostende.

Japanese American designer and sculptor Isamu Noguchi was of “the most experimental and pioneering artists of the 20th century”. His exhibition at the Barbican displays over a hundred and fifty works from his career which spans over six decades and explores his life, work and creative method. The best way to describe him is a ‘creative polymath’ as his work straddled a multitude of disciplines.

The exhibition itself is on two levels and upon entering the space you are directed upstairs. This first section is divided into spacious alcoves and display different periods of the artists work. There is a slight feeling of disconnect here and one finds oneself peering over the railing to the floor below, which appears from above far more engaging. However, this part of the exhibition provides an important overview for those who are not so familiar with Noguchi’s work. It maps the artist’s collaborations with the likes of Brâncuși, Martha Graham and R. Buckminster Fuller, in addition to charting Noguchi’s activist work, protesting racist lynchings, America’s internment of its Japanese American citizens during World War II, and fascism.

However, it is on the first level that the exhibition becomes a real delight, a rambling hodgepodge of stone and metal sculptures and his world-famous Akari lamps that makes one itch to play amongst this minimalist wonderland. Noguchi was committed to creating accessible public art and playgrounds, or playscapes, were a fascination for him. He designed these playgrounds as a way to “encourage creative interaction as a way of learning.” Indeed this interest in play and playfulness is echoed in the exhibition’s main space.

The star of the show is certainly the Akira lamps handing like softly glowing space ships, seemingly emerging from the floor like some strange luminous creature and arranged in clumps like brightly coloured mushrooms. Noguchi designed them after visiting struggling post-war Japan as a way to revitalise the economy. He took the Japanese bamboo and rice paper lanterns and modernised them as a way to bring industry back to the war-torn country.

These lamps became popular in Britain in the sixties and are still available, albeit in a slightly changed form, in IKEA. Because of this they are instantly recognisable and have led to some likening the Barbican exhibition to a ‘high-end lighting showroom.’ However, this brings us back to the discussion of ‘art for art’s sake.’  As I wandered around the exhibition I was drawn back to childhood memories of visiting B&Q with my parents, (they were the only shop in my hometown that had escalators and thus was an infinitely entertaining playground). Playground is the keyword here, I was allowed to roam the aisle alone in delicious freedom and explore this wonderland of light, metal, wood and a multitude of other textures, shapes and materials. To my childlike understanding, all of this was art. Interestingly Noguchi’s philosophy was rather similar. In creating the Akari lamps he aimed to “bring sculpture to everyday households”.

In our current environment of late-stage capitalism, Noguchi’s quiet and thoughtful philosophy’s on purpose, sustainability and environment are perhaps exactly what the art world needs. He saw commercial forms of design “as a way of escaping the art market and working with more freedom and fewer constraints.” While we might criticise the society we live in unfortunately we must still exist within it, however Noguchi “believed in the idea that even in mass-production, individuality is still possible.”  We must adapt and innovate within the framework we have because after all, to quote the artist, “to be hybrid is to be the future.”


Images · Isamu Noguchi
Noguchi at the Barbican is open from Thu 30 Sep 2021 —Sun 9 Jan 2022. For more information visit


  1. Portrait of Isamu Noguchi, American sculptor, the latter’s special assistant planner, July 4, 1947 in New York City. (Photo by Arnold Newman Properties/Getty Images)
  2. Bronze plate
  3. Noguchi, Isamu (1904-1988): Humpty Dumpty. 1946. Ribbon slate. Overall: 59 ◊ 20 3\4 ◊ 17 1\2in. (149.9 ◊ 52.7 ◊ 44.5 cm). Purchase. Inv. N.: 47.7a-e New York Whitney Museum of American Art *** Permission for usage must be provided in writing from Scala.
  4. Terracotta and plaster

Hugo Huerta Marin

Seven years in the making, ‘Portrait of an Artist’, visit the homes, studios, theatres and galleries of an iconic cast of female artists

Multi-disciplinary artist and graphic designer Hugo Huerta Marin has released ‘Portrait of an Artist: Conversations with Trailblazing Creative Women’, an exceptional new book offering an intimate insight into a stunning selection of pioneering women who have reshaped the creative industries. The Prestel published book brings you face-to-face with a diverse range of figureheads and icons from a spectrum of creative practices, all photographed and interviewed by Marin. In an unseen candid nature we’re introduced to these women in a way like never-before.

The collection of original interviews and Polaroid photographs of almost 30 trailblazing women spans creative industries, nationalities and generations, from legendary visual artists Yoko Ono and Tracey Emin to groundbreaking musicians like Annie Lennox and Debbie Harry, and fashion giants such as Miuccia Prada and Diane von Fürstenberg. Each compelling conversation discusses a range of un-spoken topics, exploring their innovative and ground-braking nature and how their voices resonate throughout the new generation of artists and women around the world.

‘Portrait of an Artist’ shines a light on unique individuality in the arts, adding FKA Twigs, Rei Kawakubo and French actress Isabelle Huppert to the already iconic cast. The book creates both a portrait of each individual woman and collectively a powerful portrait of the impact of women on the creative industries.

Hugo Huerta Marin has spent the last seven years, interviewing, writing and curating ‘Portrait of an Artist’, visiting the homes, studios, theatres and galleries of these incredible female artists, capturing their portraits and stories in environments they felt comfortable and creative. Marin is a multi-disciplinary artist and designer whose work centres on the topics of gender and cultural identity. He works as an art director to Marina Abramović, with whom he has collaborated internationally. Hugo’s solo exhibitions have been featured at The Hole Gallery in New York, Never Apart Gallery in Montreal, and MUAC museum in Mexico City. He was part of the 2019 Casa Nano art residency in Tokyo.


Discover ‘Portrait of an Artist: Conversations with Trailblazing Creative Women’ here

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