Index World Press Photo
February 2008 | Edition Nine     

In each issue of Enter, we put a set of near-identical questions to people who have taken part in a World Press Photo Joop Swart Masterclass.

These five-day events, introduced in 1994 to encourage and train young photographers, are normally held every November so that a dozen young practitioners from all over the world can meet and learn from some of the world's top professionals and each other.

The subject for edition nine is Karin Beate Nøsterud, a photojournalist with Norway’s biggest daily newspaper, Verdens Gang and with Save The Children in Norway. An award winner, including different categories in Norway’s Picture of the Year eight times, Karin Beate has exhibited in Europe and the USA and has concentrated part of her career on children’s issues. She took part in the Joop Swart Masterclass in 2000.

Karin Beate, how did you get started in photography and what was your biggest break?

When I was 17 I found my father’s old Nikon in his closet behind all the clothes and I started using it straight away. I was shooting everything- my shoes, flagpoles, my slice of bread with brown cheese - anything I saw I thought was interesting. There was a darkroom at school, which someone showed me how to use. I lived in that room for a year, I smelt of fixer the whole time. After that I went to photojournalism school in Fredrikstad, when I was 20 and I started as a freelancer as soon as I graduated. I was sent as a journalist during an internship to cover a handball game. I took my father’s Nikon camera and shot some pictures. I showed them to the newspaper and they gave me a summer job as a sports photographer. In the end my biggest break was just a piece of luck.

What qualities does a top photojournalist need?

The qualities I feel are important are being dedicated to the people you are spending time with and having a need to tell their story. I think you have to have empathy for the people you work with. There is no magic in doing this job well. It is about good research and dedication.

What is your most memorable assignment?

I once met a woman I call “the bird lady” who looked after tired and injured birds in her house in Oslo. I certainly felt she taught me the importance of appreciating the small things in life in order to understand the big things. Also I have done a lot of work with Save the Children in Norway and I am constantly humbled and constantly learning from the lives of the children I meet.

Are you – or will you ever be – fully digital?

I am fully digital professionally, but with my personal work I like experimenting with anything. I do miss film and really feel that working with film allows you a different work environment. Through the different process the work changes.

What essential equipment do you travel with?

I just have two Canon 5Ds and flash, a computer, several flash cards and a couple of hard drives. My lenses are a 28mm fixed and a 24-70mm zoom.

What is your favorite camera and how do you use it most – do you prefer natural light, for instance, or artificial/mix.

I don’t have a favorite. I use what is provided for me by the newspaper and I try to understand how best to use it, understanding the technical aspects of each tool. Today we change equipment so frequently I need to keep learning. I don’t have any rules regarding light. I use what each situation needs at the time. If I feel that means flash, then I use it. I really do hunt for good light. But in wintertime in Norway there are only three to four hours of great light so you need to be inventive.

How, when under pressure, do you try and make sure the image is as good as possible?

I focus on the moment, even if it is only five minutes. I concentrate on getting the best out of it. It is important to balance between your heart and your head in those few moments you have to work.

If there is one piece of advice you would give to a photojournalist starting out on a career, what would it be?

The one thing I would recommend is that people are playful in their work and that they try to enjoy life at the same time. Don’t be too concerned about the “machine” and don’t get swallowed up by the need to win prizes. Try to find your own voice as a photographer and trust it. Also, enjoy the work and the people you meet and you will mostly enjoy the job.

Which of the pictures you selected is your personal favorite and why?

I don’t have a favorite image from the selection. They all mean something special to me for different reasons.

Next to whom would you like to sit in an airplane going where?

I would prefer to sit next to my husband going to a remote place where he can’t get onto a wireless network, so he has to give me 100% attention. He is also a photographer by the way.

What ambitions do you have left?

I just want to live a happy life combined with doing good work for good people.

Karin Beate Nøsterud

Paolo Pellegrin
Lynsey Addario
Stephan Vanfleteren
Teru Kuwayama
Morad Bouchakour
Cristóbal Herrera Ulashkevich
Nadia Benchallal
Trent Parke

Copyright 2008, all rights reserved by the photographers