Mette Tronvoll (1965, Trondheim) lives and works in Oslo. She received her BFA from The New School for Social Research/ Parsons Schools of Design, New York.
Tronvoll’s work conveys reality in a direct and truthful manner. When making her portraits, she seeks intriguing encounters with people, rather than people who look interesting. Her curiosity lies in the person, who is photographed in an environment that reflects their individuality, self-presentation and the person’s essence. Each portrait requires careful preparation so that closeness and trust between the model and the artist can arise. Each portrait thus becomes a document of a shared experience.
She works mainly with analogue colour photography. Her photographs are taken in natural daylight, using different cameras, preferably with a Linhof 4 x 5 inch large-format camera and a Hasselblad medium format camera, in addition to working with 16mm film and video.
Tronvoll’s very first solo exhibition was at Trondheim Art Museum with the series AGE Women 25-90, in 1994. The series was also exhibited at the Chabot Museum, Rotterdam as part of Manifesta 1 (1996).
In the summers of 1998 and 1999, the artist travelled to Greenland. She travelled alone and lived in a tent by the natural hot springs on the island of Unartoq in southern Greenland. Tronvoll also visited the Isortoq reindeer station, which is located at the foot of the inland ice. Her photographic series Isortoq Unartoq stem from these travels. In the attempt to approach a completely unknown culture, the country itself was portrayed along with its inhabitants.
In the body of work that originated in Greenland, Tronvoll was particularly interested in how the place is expressed in culture. The photographs communicate the relationship each individual is thought to carry. Whether the models assume conscious postures or not, social meaning and local customs are expressed. In the field where the photographic image is considered a documentary tool, reference or presentation, these portraits represent a special presence in a rare landscape. The unknown becomes close and intimate, while the familiar seems abstract, strange, distant, and creates an impression of simultaneous participation and alienation.
Isortoq Unartoq was a turning point for Tronvoll's career, as it was the first photographic work taken outside the studio. Works from this series were acquired by The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 1999. The series was also exhibited at the Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden - Baden in Baden-Baden. In this connection, the book entitled Isortoq Unartoq was published by Walther König Buchhandlung, Cologne.
In 2004 Tronvoll travelled to Mongolia, resulting in her photographic series Mongolia. The series consists of portraits of the Mongolian nomads and of their homes called “Gers” or called yurts. The portraits, located either outdoors in the dry, monochrome landscape or indoors, where the colourful interior of the yurts stands in stark contrast to the landscape outside. For almost 3,000 years, the form and function of the yurts have remained unchanged. In the series of images of the yurt itself, the yurt's location in the landscape is crucial and how its individual characteristics are clarified through changing lighting conditions.
Between 2006 and 2009 Tronvoll worked on Rena 006 (2006) and Goto Fukue (2008) as well as her mid- career retrospective exhibition At Eye Level at Rogaland kunstmuseum, Stavanger, KODE Bergen kunstmuseum, Bergen, Landesgalerie am Oberösterreichischen Landesmuseum, Linz, Haus am Waldsee, Berlin and Brandts, Museet for fotokunst, Odense (2009-2010). Mongolia and Rena 006 were also shown at the 17th Biennale of Sydney, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, in 2010.
In 2013, the body of work titled Svalbard was the result of the artist’s two-year study (2011-2012) of the Arctic archipelago, which lies midway between mainland Norway and the North Pole. The series traces the different stories of a place characterized by global political, geographical and commercial interests. Through Tronvoll's well-known immediate photographic eye, the viewer encounters human traces of the past and present, such as from Arctic expeditions and coal mining, researchers' daily investigations or the "mere" landscape that characterized our notions of the sublime for many centuries. The series allows a one-on-one meeting with the viewer, which is most profoundly visible in the photographs from Ny-Ålesund: a former mining town that today acts as an international research station. Here, research is done on climate change, meteorology, aurora borealis, deep-sea currents or biological diversity. It is here where Tronvoll provides the most honest and personal insight into contemporary life on Svalbard, without forging the fascinating aspects and stories, or its significance on a global scale.
Between 2013 and 2014 Tronvoll worked on several commissions, including a portrait series of HRH Queen Sonja of Norway (exhibited at The National Museum, Oslo in 2014) and a project for the Venice Architecture Biennale (2014) for which she travelled to Zambia to photograph schools built in the 1960s and 1970s. She would later return to other countries in Africa – Tanzania, Kenya and Rwanda – in relation to development projects initiated by the Norwegian government agency Norfund, resulting in her work African Pictures (2016).
Tronvoll’s art works are represented in the collections of Moderna Museet (Stockholm), The National Museum (Oslo), Bergen Kunstmuseum (Bergen), The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), Kistefos Museum (Jevnaker), Stavanger Kunstmuseum (Stavanger), Nordnorsk Kunstmuseum (Tromsø), Trondheim Kunstmuseum (Trondheim), The National Museum of Photography, Copenhagen and Neues Museum (Nuremberg) amongst others. She was the recipient of the Candida Höfer Art Prize, Cologne in 2006. In 2016 she was granted the prestigious “Statsstipend”, a lifetime government grant.