THE PHOTOBOOK REVIEW
Guest editor: Daria Tuminas
Pictograms of Lars von Trier
an interview with Caspar Sejersen about his book Belongs to Joe
Belongs to Joe, by Danish photographer Casper Sejersen and author Cecilie Høgsbro, is a book created on the set of Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac (2013)—a powerful, erotic, and at times, deeply disturbing movie about Joe, a woman who defines herself as a nymphomaniac. She tells the story of her sexual life, from childhood to maturity, to a man who takes her in after finding her injured. This serves as the framework for a powerful reflection on addiction, art history, mythology, and even fly-fishing. Belongs to Joe is by no means an illustration of the movie, and is even less a by-product of it; instead, it is a standalone work inspired not by the film but by its scenario. This work, unique in its own right, nonetheless manages to remain faithful to the charged, transgressive ethos of its source. Sejersen, who is known for his work shooting fashion for such magazines as Dazed and Purple, spoke about the creation of this uncommon book.
Rémi Coignet: How did you get in touch with Lars von Trier?
Casper Sejersen: I was hired to do the commercial campaign for the posters and promotional material. I saw the casting, and I thought I should not just do the campaign. So I asked his producer [Louise Vesth] if I could do a kind of behind-the-scenes book about the film. And she said, “Forget about that. Lars will never allow anything like that. He’s not interested.”
And then she sent me the manuscript, because Lars wanted me to read it before I did the campaign. I read it in one day and was totally blown away. Then his producer called me back and said, “Now Lars thinks it’s his idea, this behind-the-scenes book, so you are allowed to do it.” I responded, “Yeah, but Louise, I have read the manuscript now I can’t do a behind-the-scenes book after that. I can’t do pictures of actors in trailers putting on makeup. It will be too light. Now I want to do my own art project, not based on the film at all, but based on the manuscript.” She just said, “No, that’s an art project he will never allow it.” So I told myself, “OK, forget about that.”
She called me two days later and said, “OK, Lars thinks it’s a brilliant idea. He only has one wish: that he not be a part of it. And he will only see the final result. So you can do whatever you want. We will support you, but it’s your own art project.”