Edited by Odeta Catana, Photo Editor
Could you please tell us a little more about yourself?
Johan Larsson, high school teacher and freelance photographer.
I was born and raised in Sweden and I’m currently living in Jönköping. I was born in the mid 80’s in Skövde, a typical Swedish working class town, not far from Jönköping. Photography has been a great part of my life for a long time, and I’ve been spending many long northern nights in the darkroom. Since March 2013 I’ve been a father to a beautiful daughter, Hilda.
How did you start taking pictures? Usually there is always the old story of the boy who finds his grandfather’s camera, did that happen to you as well or not?
I got my first camera when I was a young boy. I guess I was seven or eight years old. It was a cheap pocket camera and it broke just after a few rolls. No one in my family were into photography. My father was a hardworking man and I don’t think he had time for any hobbies back then.
As a teenager I used to paint a lot, mostly abstract paintings. I was not very good, though. I had just started collage when I bought my second camera. It was an advanced (read: expensive) DSLR; It was a complete waste of money, ’cause I didn’t use it much. The big turning point came when I found a vintage Voigtländer camera at a flee market. It was one hell of a camera. No flash. No light meter. No rangefinder. I mean, it was so simple. I remember when I got the first roll back from the lab. Wow! I had never seen such photographs before. They had soul! That’s how I got into photography.
Where does your inspiration comes from?
I’m inspired by pretty much everything. As a teenager I used to play the guitar in a garage band. Music has always played an important role in my life. I also find inspiration in art. Jackson Pollock and Lyonel Feininger were both great.
My favorite photographers are all swedes. Martin Bogren is talented. I’m inspired by his book Lowlands. It is a personal story about the village he grew up in. One of my photo projects (Barndomsbyn) is very similar to Lowlands. All Swedish photographers, both amateurs and professionals, admire Christer Strömholm. He’s dead now, but he is still very important on the Swedish photo scene.
In a portrait, what is important for you?
Portrait photography is extremely hard. I personally think that most portrait photographers seeks perfection, and perfection isn’t good. A great portrait photograph most be authentic. Christer Strömholm was a maestro when it came to authentic portrait photography. I never use flash. Flash usually ruins everything, even when it’s professionally used. Personally, I have to know the person I photograph.
What kind of relationship do you have with your subject when you shoot?
As I mention above, I usually have a personal relationship with my subject. I’m currently working on three different photo projects: Studiegatan 1a (documentary photographs from my ordinary day life, with authentic portraits of my wife and daughter), Barndomsbyn (Photos from the village I was raised in) and JKPG (short for Jönköping; multi exposure photos from Jönköping). They are all very personal. To me, a close relationship with the subject is important.
Do you think it’s important to follow a school to learn how to shoot?
I have no photographic education, and I don’t think it’s that important. I took some dark room classes at the university, but I dropped out. The Swedish photo scene is rather small and everybody knows everyone. I learn a lot from them.
What’s the photo you want to take and you never did?
Oh, I don’t know. I don’t think much about that. When it comes to street photography I guess I have missed a couple of great opportunities. Before my daughter was born I used to travel a lot. I remember that I missed some great shoots last time I was in Paris. I hope I will see Paris soon again. Paris is a good place when it comes to photography. But as I said, I try not to think too much about the photos I never took.
What’s your photo-mission?
I don’t know if I have a photo-mission. I hope I someday will get a photo book published. I am actuality working on a book (the JKPG project) right know.