Co-founder and CEO of the climate neutral production company and fashion photographer Kia Hartelius is a moving force in turning the entirety of the fashion industry in a more environmentally conscious direction and is the photographer of this portrait series. We have a had a chat with her on aesthetics, process, and the current state of the fashion industry.
When and how did your passion for photography begin?
I have a background in Sociology and my passion for photography started 10+ years back when I was Studying in Paris. I met a photographer and together we moved to London. When I moved back to Copenhagen after a few years abroad, I knew that I had to change course and work within the creative industry. I was never passionate about my studies at university and at this moment of my life I felt a totally new sensation which I identified as passion - for photography specifically. All I wanted was to spend my days and nights developing my technical and creative skills, which I literally did! Though I have a company now and my working days include many other things than photography, my passion for photography is very much alive.
What do you know now that you wished you had known before becoming a fashion photographer?
I consider myself a good mix of naïve, optimistic, risk-taking, realistic, curious, determined, and persistent. Did I lack any of these skills my career would look very different than it does today. I use every single one of these character traits every day at work. I’ve always had a very strong sense of intuition which I try to follow in everything I do. If I have a good feeling I don’t think twice, and I will say yes to most things if I have a good vibe about a project or person. If I could speak to my younger me, I would tell myself to believe in myself more cause from my perspective today I know that my gut feeling it (almost always) right!
What gave you the courage to take the leap and create your own production company?
Me and my partner in life and business, film director Jeppe Kolstrup, have for many years been working to lower our personal impact on the climate and the environment, and we came to a point where we realized that we had to start our own company if we wanted climate as a central part of our professional lives as well. So, we spend a year turning every stone in our ways of creating and producing creative campaigns – primarily stills and film – and we’re really proud of what we’ve achieved so far. We’ve invested everything we know (and own) in creating Fern and we firmly believe that this is the only way to do things when starting up a company in 2020. We meet both skepticism and cheering crowds and both are crucial in shaping our business.
Can you tell us a little bit more about the philosophy behind Fern Studio?
In Fern we create and produce climate neutral campaigns – primarily film and stills. We believe in reducing our footprint on climate and environment as much as possible by being proactive and finding alternative ideas and ways to produce. A few examples from our latest film production where we among a lot of other things achieved the following: All food and drinks were organic, vegetarian, seasonal and locally produced in Denmark. The entire production was 100% palm oil-free. We have completely avoided diesel generators on set (e.g. we got an electrician to install extra power at a location in order to be able to connect to the local grid). We have recycled all costumes and props. We have sorted all waste and reduced the waste from the two recording days to what corresponds to a single garbage bag (after two days of recordings with 30 people on set). We’re super proud of all our suppliers which are companies that are also invested in challenging status quo.
After each production we publish a climate report where all our efforts are described in detail – also the ones that did not succeed. We wish complete transparency and therefore all our climate reports are publicly available on our website for anyone who might be interested.
As a last effort we estimate each productions remaining CO2 footprint which is then offset. We also compensate for our office space and all our employees, making us a CO2-neutral company.
How do you prepare for capturing personal portraits, including your own?
I’m a very intuitive and sensitive person, so I can prepare as much as I want in terms of settling on the creative direction and being prepared technically. But it really all comes down to what happens between me and the person in front of the camera. This interaction is crucial and something that I cannot prepare myself for other than being able to focus 100 percent on the situation. For me it’s super important that the person I’m portraying feels safe and comfortable - thereby creating a space where that person dares to be him or herself without a protecting shield of distance. That connection is the best investment in portraying someone I’ve probably never met before.
When it comes to portraying myself, I also have to create that safe space for myself and hide away all self-criticism. I’ve spent too much time being angry with myself when I was younger, and I’ve worked a lot with myself in terms coming to acceptance of my family story. But I’m at a really good place today where I believe in myself on so many levels.
Is there anything else you’re passionate about at the moment?
My son! He’s three and the cutest little curly head. Becoming a mother for sure is the most challenging and rewarding relationship of my life – much more than anything mentioned above in this interview. I’ve never been more patient or frustrated (often at the same time) and the emotional spectrum of my life has expanded by 100 times. I hope we will leave a safe and resourceful planet for all kids to grow up and create meaningful lives for themselves and future generations to come.
Passion; also known as dedication, as hunger, it is the desire to destroy oneself for one’s art. To tear down, move, or start over in order to rebuild and expand. The feeling of not being able to let go. It is a human condition that most are bound by.
Even though we are JUST human, JUST women, JUST female, we all have that drive that makes us ‘more than’. It is what makes us-, our stories-, and our creations unique. From a job, to a child, to a hobby gone wild, we, and you, are more than JUST female. We have gathered some of the most inspiring Danish women that we know for a talk about passion, creativity, and the balance between worklife and homelife.
Let their inspiring stories, trials and errors be a reminder that we all can struggle, we can fail, but something will always have us return to that same place of passion. And maybe the point is not necessarily to succeed, but to have given it your all, and grown in the process.
Tell us about your passion, struggle, and successes!