Johan Strindberg captures moments from everyday life and transforms those images into a mysterious and magical world, without the use of all the modern technology available today in the world of photography. He has also done portraits of well known figures in Sweden. He grew up in the city of Linköping, where he got his first introduction to the world of photography, and went on to study the subject in school and workshops before moving to Stockholm as a freelance photographer. He has won several awards and grants, the latest being Young Nordic Photographer of the Year at Fotografiska, the Photography Museum in Stockholm. His Photo Book Grainland was published in 2015, out of 500 copies, 200 come with slipcovers and a print. Some copies are left and available at Fotografiska, NK Bokhandel and on Johan’s website among others. Photo books are a passion, and he wishes to publish more in the future.
Johan lives and works in Stockholm.
How did your interest in photography begin?
I started painting at the age of 15, and was doing collages, using pictures from magazines. I then thought it could be fun to take my own pictures instead, and so started to take photographs. I studied economics in High School and took a course in photography. Straight after High School I went to Paris, with the intention to study a little more about photography but ended up working for a Swedish designer.
Was there a key moment in your life when you realised that photography would be a full time career for you?
There wasn’t any particular moment where I felt there was a clear path towards being a professional photographer. I take photographs for myself, it is something that I enjoy creating and have done that for years, but one has to be able to make a living as well. I like experimenting with different things. In fact I have even had a desire to study to be a Realtor, as that sounds like something I could have fun doing, I am interested in houses and like meeting people!
Do you often compose the scenes in your pictures?
Yes, sometimes I have to. I do not do very much on the computer with the images and hardly any retouching at all. I work with the photos in different ways, for example taking a photo of a particular photo and using different light or shaking the camera to get different effects on the image. I compose pictures in my mind all the time, when I see things around me everyday and it can happen anytime. I can visualize what the scene can be in my mind, in some cases returning and composing a scene there.
Were you influenced by any photographers or photograph in particular?
Yes, I admired the work of Swedish Photographer Anders Petersen who was a student of another great Swedish Photographer, Christer Strömholm.
What are your thoughts on Swedish photography?
As with everything else there is a lot that I find very interesting and others that don’t interest me at all. Having said that it does not mean that they are uninteresting or bad. This is a constant battle faced by so many talented photographers who are forced to choose other avenues as one cannot live on photography alone unless you are among the top echelon. Getting to that level takes a very long time, and many unfortunately, give up along the way.
Many of my first idols were Swedish photographers perhaps because they were the ones I came across first, or maybe because Swedish photography is highly regarded internationally. I do think Swedish photography needs a lift, a helping hand and an arena for the young talent to persevere with their art and not give up because of the hardship they have to endure. A few more “Drink Stations” along the route just as in a marathon, in order to regain their energy and reach their goal at the end.
You were the first recipient for the Young Nordic Photographer of the Year Award in 2014. What has this meant for your career?
I was very happy with the win although it came as a surprise for me. I had not expected to win the Award, and felt really honoured. I had previously participated in the Autumn Exhibition at Fotografiska, where out of thousands of applicants only 52 are chosen. And winning this Award has had an impact in my career. I sell more of my images, awards are always a validation for buyers and collectors and it has raised my profile. There is a lot more interest in my work now and I also have a book contract at the moment.
Is there a preference, colour or black and white?
Black and White, I do prefer that medium, and I also find it easier to work with!
How do you begin a new series of photographs?
I don’t really do series of photos, I work mainly with what captures me at the time and what interests or fascinates me. I have done a series of people with tattoos as I found that intriguing, to get to know a whole group of people who are not part of my everyday life and sometimes dealing with fear and judgement. I enjoyed that experience very much and still keep in touch with them today as they have become friends.
I did take a storytelling workshop with Pieter Ten Hoopen, it helps me with putting photo books together.
What is it that you seek to portray through your lens?
It starts with an image in my head and sometimes the photo I take of something quite ordinary can be transformed through my own creative process without any technical interference to a totally different image. An example is a scene I witnessed on my way home one day, the snow was melting and the fog was setting in, the whole scene looked so beautiful and mysterious I rushed home and got my wife to come back out with me, to pose in the photo, and froze the moment her hair was up in the air.
If there was a style that could be attributed to your photographs, what would you call it?
I do not think I have any particular style that I can pin down, and I feel I am evolving and changing and experimenting all the time.
I am experimenting with metal plates. I started when I found one while I was gardening, buried in the ground. Now I buy them at flea markets. I paste photographs on them and go through a process where I wash them and rub off the paper to reveal the images on the plate. The deformities of the metal plates adds to the look of the final picture. This is also something I am able to experiment with at home now that I have a little baby in my life!
You mentioned you loved Photo Books, what is on your bookshelves?
I have numerous books of talented Swedish Photographers like Anders Petersen, JH, Tunbjörk and others and I do always buy books from young, unestablished photographers who are doing their own thing. I love people who actively create and do things.
What is your next exhibition?
In Denmark in 2016, “Moments Where I Can Rest My Mind”.