Danish Imports: The Neuropyschologist

This blog post originally appeared over at matthewjames.dk

Grasia Maria Banegas initially moved to Denmark from Honduras in Central America as a volunteer for MS (Action Aid Denmark), to join an educational program called Global Change, where she trained to become a campaigner and youth facilitator.  Coming from one of the poorest and most dangerous countries in the world, Grasia fell in love with Denmark’s social security and equality.

After finishing her BSC degree in Psychology in Honduras she moved to Rhode Island in the USA and took a Masters in Neuropsychology at Brown University – one of America’s top Ivy League Universities.

She was then recruited by Danish pharmaceutical company Lundbeck, who specialise in brain disease research. Here she works developing research about neurotransmitters and gaining data that hopefully one day will help control senile disorders. According to Grasia, Lundbeck recruited her because there are very few Danes trained in this area. For this reason, Grasia feels that she is contributing greatly to Danish society.

The 23-year-old, who lives on Østerbro with her Danish parter, speaks fluent Spanish and English, though admits that her Danish is ‘terrible.’ This is something she plans to rectify in September, when she starts her Masters in Cognition and Communication at Copenhagen University.

On living in Copenhagen, Grasia loves the variety of entertainment the city has to offer and its beautiful sights, but finds the language barrier a bit of a problem. The fact that Danes speak English makes things a lot easier for her.

Grasia feels that she has integrated well in to society, but can’t help noticing getting a lot of stares on the street. “I’m brown, with dark hair and brown eyes,” she explains bluntly. As most people she meets don’t know her full story, Grasia thinks people see her as ‘just another migrant.’ She hopes to continue her education and research and maybe one day permanently move to Denmark. Coming from a third world country, Grasia believes that statistically the Government views her as just someone who came to live off the Danish welfare system without really contributing to it.

danish imports, portrait photographer in copenhagen, portrætfotograf i københavn

Getting the Shot

I should probably admit that I was rushing to get this exhibition ready by the time I photographed Grasia, and that my ideas were starting to run a bit thin. But don’t let that fool you; I still had some good ones.

Teaching photography workshops in Copenhagen meant that I knew a lot of places like the back of my hand – and the Marble Church (Marmor Kirke) was one of them. It hadn’t been my first choice, however. I’d actually asked her if she could get permission from her employers at Lundbeck to photograph on-site, but they had declined the request due to the theme of the exhibition. The company were keen to distance themselves from any independent comments or feelings regarding society, so we were forced to go to Plan B. I still managed to persuade Grasia to wear her labcoat, however.

It was perhaps one of the fastes photo sessions for the exhibition, and all I really wanted to achieve was a nice, clean portrait with no distractions. I knew that the light inside the church was fantastic at a particular time of day, so there’d be no need to use flash or anything fancy.

So, I threw on a 50mm lens f1.4 and just started shooting. And being a naturally beautiful girl, it was quite easy to get Grasia to relax and sit “normally.”

We were in and out within minutes, and all I could think about was just how quick and easy it is sometimes to get a great picture. Other times you can screw around with light stands and reflectors for 15 minutes until you get it right, but on this occasion less was most certainly more.