When Salle Privée meets Nikolaj Møller, he's in a good mood. It's one of those beautiful, clear-skied days and Copenhagen is sparkling. "Whenever there is sunshine, the city really rises to the occasion," he says. "The day feels a bit special." Møller, a 37-year-old photographer, was born in Toronto, Canada, and travels constantly for his work - whether for his own portrait-focused projects, or for editorial or commercial jobs. Yet his heart is in Copenhagen.
"It's my home, it's where my friends are, where my family is," he explains. "No matter where you are that holds on to you." He lives in Christianshavn, right in the center, amid a melee of house boats, expensive apartments, tourists and old-timers. "I like to walk in the middle of all this," he says. "It's always moving, there's never just one type of person." His favourite part of town, however, is the historic center, and he never misses a chance to pass through there - particularly after dark. "It's empty at night," he says. "Sometimes you feel like you're walking through a movie with the shadows of the lampposts. It's full of beautiful history, and I really like that."
"Sometimes you feel like you're walking through a movie with the shadows of the lampposts. It's full of beautiful history, and I really like that."
Møller is open-hearted and effusive, and strolling with him through this area, it's clear how connected to it he feels. Our first stop is the Thorvaldsen Museum, a shrine to the work of Danish artist Bertel Thorvaldsen and the first public institution of its kind in Denmark. "The courtyard in the middle is insanely beautiful," he explains. "It's a place where not many other people hang out. I have been there many times so it holds a lot of memories for me." The next stop is Christiansborg Palace, home to the Danish parliament, the prime minister's office and the supreme court. Referred to colloquially as Borgen (the castle), Møller describes it as "big by Copenhagen standards." "There's a simplicity and at the same time a majesty about it," he continues. "It's not an extravagant palace, but the size of it makes it extravagant, at least for me." Møller particularly enjoys wandering through the spaces in between the two buildings, the small squares, streets and canals. "Most people would cycle around it because it's easier, but I like to walk right through it."
“I'm not really good at approaching people on the street, sometimes somebody is so funny looking or cool that I build up the courage, but it's more often details, landscapes, buildings and weird things."
While at home, he almost never takes his proper camera out, because he says it "just takes over everything, everything is a picture and I only focus on that." Instead, he prefers to use his phone. But although he's primarily a portrait photographer, he rarely turns his lens on random passers-by. "I'm not really good at approaching people on the street," he says with a laugh. "Sometimes somebody is so funny looking or cool that I build up the courage, but it's more often details, landscapes, buildings and weird things."
When not in Copenhagen, Møller could be anywhere from Afghanistan to Peru - wherever his work takes him. Currently, he is obsessed with Mexico, and has several projects on the go there."I'm fascinated by the family culture there," he says. "Mexico has a tough history, but family love, their way of approaching life, I'm really attracted to."One of his other ongoing projects is a documentary about a Danish veteran who moved to the Amazon jungle to treat his PTSD with natural medicine. "A project like that is pure nature," he says. "In these sorts of situations I tend to feel happier [than in cities], though not necessarily in a positive way. More alive."
"There's something in the way when you face another face, even if it's on a piece of paper, in another country, another time."
Despite having started photography late at the age of 22 after a girlfriend took a course, these days, he can't imagine doing anything else for a job: "It's not a 9-to-5, but every day is another possibility of changing your own path, hopefully in a constructive way." A huge part of his success is down to his portraits, which have an unmistakable quality to them - a sharpness that challenges and engages. "There's something in the way when you face another face, even if it's on a piece of paper, in another country, another time," he says. "The person that you're looking at is looking back at you. There's some sort of interaction."