Ditte Isager

Ditte Isager’s photography is transformative: on viewing, it’s impossible to not be transported into the Danish photographer’s world. An obsession with light, color, and balance results in images that recall the fastidiousness of still life paintings — and that has resulted in photographing many of our favorite cookbooks, including the James Beard awarding-winning Noma: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine. At home with the artist in Copenhagen, the attention to detail and subtle beauty carries over. We spoke with Ditte about Scandinavian daylight, daily virtue, and personal ritual.

You grew up in Copenhagen, left to spend seven years in New York, and returned again to raise your children. How does your identity and background play into how you see the world, and create work in response to it?
Living in NY was a fantastic journey: I love that city and that time will always have a special place in my heart. I still love going back, and work wise it was very important to be there. New York made me a better photographer, and I feel lucky to have had the experience of living there.
On returning home, I’ve realized that you see things differently after being away. I wish more people would travel out and see the world, and return to be grateful.
And for me, I see the incredible privileges I have of living in Copenhagen: You may pay higher taxes here, but cost of living is lower and we have free healthcare and education. Since returning, I have been able to cut down work, and only do the things I really would like to do, like focusing on spending more time with my family. We now live five minutes from my sister and five from my Mum, I have a garden, my office is at home. and I can pretty much bike everywhere.
How do you define wellbeing? What makes you truly feel well, whole, and the truest form of yourself?
Time in all its formats: having time to do the things I like, time to be with my family and friends, and moments to myself, like going through town on my bike or doing garden work. I also love the peace that comes from swimming: you can close everything out in the weightlessness of the water.

How do you bring virtue, or moments of meaning into your daily life?
Spending time with people I love 
What are some of the most unusual sources of inspiration for you? 
My biggest inspirations are light and colors: I love watching the daylight, how it travels throughout the day, how it changes with the weather, and how different types of windows and glass create different types of light.
Regarding color, I am inspired by the ways people put them together in their wardrobes, all the different colors in the houses by the harbor in the Copenhagen borough Christianshavn, and the colors in ballet costumes.

Ditte wears LIPPARD DRESS in tiny ripples print and SERAPE STRIPE LONG PONCHO
What have been some of the biggest turning points in your life or career?
My dad died when I was 10, which I think plays a big part of who I am today. Something like that makes you grow up a bit faster, when you experience grief and a specific reality at such a young age. My father was was very interested in photography, and I think later on that’s what drew me to photography; it was like way of keeping some of him with me.
Of course the biggest turning point in my life so far was giving birth to my son Wilder: everything changes, and the love is endless.
What are you serious about?
Not compromising my work, being dedicated to my ideas (both work-related and private).

What will you never take seriously?
Facebook discussions. And the notion that people think digitally they can write anything to anyone … you should never write things you would not tell people in person
Please describe a daily ritual.
I don’t have many daily rituals. But I do always start the day by turning on the coffee machine and making a good cup for me and my husband, and I always end the day by reading a book for my son.
What is next for you?
Having my second child — I’ve got 11 weeks to go. I’m also finishing the summer house we are building: I can’t wait to spend a bit of my maternity in a little forrest by the beach in the fall rain. I imagine myself lighting a fire and putting on a big sweater.

Photography by GEMMA & ANDY INGALLS