Sven Jacobsen’s photographs ask interesting questions about innocence and bliss. A new book concentrates on images of youthful freedom; teenagers scale fences and climb trees and plunge into lakes, they skateboard and snog and do headstands and backflips and laugh like they will never, ever stop. Any of the pictures might lead advertising campaigns for spring water or blue jeans or perfume – Jacobsen has worked as a commercial photographer for multinational corporations and knows all the seductive emotions – but there is, too, an extra edge of intimacy and challenge at work. They invite you to recall moments when you felt as alive as the people – family members, friends and models – he depicts. He calls his collection Like Birds.
Jacobsen suggests that when he takes the pictures he is looking always for the “flow of beauty” that might unite the figure with the landscape, a sense of subject and background dissolved. He likens his process to surfing, letting a wave take over and seeing where it takes you. This picture of the underwater swimmer is typical. He captions it as a “painting” for good reason – the scene carries visual reminders of a pre-Raphaelite Ophelia, but the young woman here is very much alive, in her element, not yet ready to break the glassy surface of the water, holding her breath for dear life.
Like Birds carefully excludes almost all reference to time and place; you look in vain for a screen or a pocketed phone or a trademark. The holiday mood hardly changes as the images progress; there seem few serpents in the small paradises that Jacobsen seeks. The images, in this sense, become something of a test for more world-weary eyes: what if life were always lived in the moment, like this? And: can you ever have too much of a good thing?