Interview #59: Fredrik Holmér
CUS: How did you get into photography?
Fredrik Holmér: I knew about film photography, but I rediscovered it about three years ago and got hooked. I think that there was something aesthetically with digital photography that I wasn't fond of at that point and when I started taking pictures with a Zenit 12XP I found a look that suited me.
CUS: Did you study, or are you studying, photography? If not, how did you learn?
FH: I have studied photography for two years, and just finished about a month ago. First the basics, then a year where I've been working more with finding my own visual language. I can say that I'm no wizard when it comes to technique, but I know what I want with my photography. I've learned a lot by trying different things. I made a video called "Ex:Static" that is about extending a photograph, and the process made me more interested in video and developed me as a photographer.
CUS: Tell us a little about where you live. How does your city/country/current location have an affect on your photography?
FH: I live in Stockholm, Sweden and it's both a big and a small town. You can literally walk across the whole city on one day and still have time for a coffee. It suits me quite well at the moment, but I'm attracted by bigger cities. I'm not sure that my environment affects me so much in my work since I tend to either plan what to photograph or just shoot what comes in my way. On the other hand, I think it's quite obvious that you can find traces of my legacy in my work, it probably affects me more then I think. I have to thank my friends for a whole lot of my work so I guess that I've been more depending on them. One thing that I really appreciate is that it's close to the countryside so it's easy to have some breaks, just looking at trees.
CUS: What did you have for breakfast this morning?
FH: Cheese sandwich and coffee.
CUS: What makes a good image?
FH: That is a hard, if not impossible question to answer. It's subjectively and speaking for my self I don't really know. I don't even think that all of my pictures are good. But I know a good picture when I see one and if I have to say something I think that the picture has to move me in some way. I've perhaps seen a handful of pictures that at that point created a feeling in my stomach that I think makes a good image. If I look at them today that feeling will probably not come again.
CUS: What are five things you can’t live without?
FH: My son, snus (snuff), contact lenses/glasses, a point and shoot camera, music.
CUS: Who, or what, is your biggest influence?
FH: The photographers that I look the most at is Wolfgang Tillmans, JH Engström, William Eggleston and Stephen Shore. Out of these Tillmans is my biggest influence I guess, at least lately. I saw his exhibition at Moderna Museet (Museum of Modern Art) in Stockholm 4 times last year. What inspired me the most was the fact the he is allowed to (and is embraced) do his thing. His work with scale and presentation is probably the best there is. I'm also hugely influenced by music. Some of my projects starts with a line from a lyric or a title of song. I got the opportunity to shoot a album cover for Vacant Fever (http://vacantfever.com) and I feel that we connect as artists with the same visions, just using different mediums to express ourselves.
CUS: What can you say about your series entitled "How To Catch a Dinosaur"?
FH: I started to see things in my surroundings that worked together, like two people dancing or so. I have a good memory when it comes to what I have taken a picture of (it's entirely shot on film) and I begun to connect things into diptychs. It was interesting when I was snowed in on the project to discover that things that was in two different rooms in the same apartment still could connect. For example the diptych with the false teeth and the curtain where the cup and the curtains was the same colour. I wanted it to show what I saw, and therefore I didn't include another persons eyes for example. Every picture but one is a pair and I used the properties of a book to display them. It turned into a book that I made myself and I would really love to see it printed for real (I've got dummys if any publisher is interested).
CUS: Do you believe that with the rise of digital photography the phrase “everyone can be a photographer” is true? What are your thoughts on digital vs. film photography?
FH: In my opinion everyone with a camera is a photographer. Back in the days those who knew about shutter time and aperture were photographers but now there is no need to know that. Photography is a democratic medium and I think that is great. The ones who say something else are probably not good enough or afraid to lose their jobs. For me it just encourages me to work harder or to do better projects etc. Since I don't have any interest in becoming a commercial photographer I think that it's easier for me to say so since I always start and end with my self and don't have to answer to someone else. When it comes to the whole digital vs. film I don't think that it matter what technique you use. I've worked entirely on film but I will buy a decent digital camera as soon as possible. Right now I'm using a digital compact camera instead of my Olympus mju II and I thought that it was a shame that I couldn't adjust any settings myself until I realized that it was the same with the Olympus. Film is expensive and it's a whole lot of work in post that I'm sick and tired of (I'm also really lazy). But I will always think that film looks better the digital.
CUS: What are your thoughts on photography and the Internet? (For example, mass amounts of images being uploaded every day via sites such as Flickr, Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram...)
FH: I've got the Internet to thank a lot for so I have to say that it is brilliant for showing of your work and to connect with other people. It is both harder and easier now I think. Harder since there are so many pictures that it's hard to stand out. And easier since there is a brilliant platform to use. If you put some time into finding those places that your work will suit, you will be rewarded. I however think it's getting harder and harder to be discovered and getting jobs thrown at you. One of the things that I've noticed is those that only follow you to get a follow back (and when you don't follow them back, they unfollow you). I've never understood that. If I follow someone on Flickr or Tumblr it's because I appreciate their work.
CUS: How do you differentiate "art" photography and "non-art" photography?
FH: It's all about the purpose I think. If you want to do your own thing, working with your own projects and so on you are a "art" photographer. Or it's up to either the photographer or viewer to tell. I don't really care, but I know that I think of myself as an "art" photographer. But that's because to me the opposite is a commercial photographer and I don't want to be that.
CUS: Do you think that the Internet (as opposed to a gallery or any other art institution) is a legitimate place to showcase photographic work or do photographs have to be seen in "the flesh" to be fully appreciated and experienced?
FH: Nothing beats going to a exhibition to look at pictures. However, I do think that internet is a good place to show your pictures and to look at others work. In my case, I want to exhibit my work, either on gallery walls or in books. As my final project in school I did a series that was called "Come, Disconnect the Dots" and I taped the pictures to the wall and put nails in every corner of every picture. Then I used a thin white thread to connect every picture and painted the heads of the nails white. Since the walls were white you had to look close to see the installation as it was meant to be seen. At the end of the opening night I tore down one of the pictures from the wall and threw it away. Only one half of the project was about the pictures, the other half was about the fact that people doesn't really care. One picture was gone, someone maybe liked it. But I can guarantee that most people that saw my work don't even remember which one it was. My point with this rambling is that I did a "Internet thing", deleting a post (on you're blog, flickr, etc) but in a gallery.
CUS: What are your plans for the summer?
FH: I will be on parental leave (god bless Sweden) the whole summer, spending time with my son first and foremost. Other then that I don't know. Hopefully we'll get a few sunny days here in Sweden soon...
CUS: What tips would you give to get out of a creative slump?
FH: My projects often begin with a thought or a picture that comes to my head and I'll go from there. I then try to write something down that sums a project up or ideas to what to include in a series. What I've learned down the road is that what I start with isn't necessary what I'll end up with. I think that my process works fine for me, but it would probably be a disaster for most people since I believe that everything will work at just fine in the end. I shoot like one or two frames and if it didn't turned out good I won't reshoot it.
CUS: What advice would you give to your fellow up-and-coming photographers?
FH: Look at other peoples work and go to exhibitions. The latter is the most important if you ask me. I love to look at other photographers work in photo books and I think it's a great substitute for exhibitions.
CUS: What do you hope to achieve with your photography? Do you foresee photography as a career in your future?
FH: Of course I want to live as an artist, things have gone to far to just let it go. I know that it's hard and only a few chosen are able to do it. But I hope that I'll be able to go to university next year and really give time to my projects. I don't have enough time and sometimes I wish that I didn't need to sleep.
CUS: Can you tell us about any upcoming projects or exhibitions?
FH: This summer I'll be working on a series called "Home is good but away is the best" (http://homeisgoodbutawayisbest.tumblr.com). It's basically snapshots taken with a compact digital camera with a descriptive title and I will upload a lot of pictures that sometimes aren't that good. It feels liberating and it will be the opposite of how I do things now. I'm also planning to do at least one, maybe two videos that has been on my mind for a while. One is about leaving out and the other is about interaction. I don't have any exhibitions planned (If someone want's to exhibit something I've already done would on the other hand be great) because I need to focus on my applications to university next year.
CUS: Our last interviewee, Eric Mowinckel, asks: What makes a good series?
FH: When I first started I thought that every picture in a series had to look the same. It didn't matter how hard I tried, I never got more then three or four pictures that I thought where connected. In school we worked a lot with series and as my final project on my first year in school I made a series called "Det är alltid fyra grader på botten" to my new born son and ended up with 65 pictures. I had just become a father and it was overwhelming in all kind of ways. On top of that my son was born with two cysts in his stomach and needed surgery. The title is in Swedish and translates something like It's always four degrees at the bottom, referring to the constant temperature at the bottom of a lake. For me, I had no idea what was coming and wanted to show him places, people, things that I liked and wanted him to see. With all those components it wasn't hard to do a series. If it was good or not, I'm not the right person to tell, but it could have been better. But if you've got an idea, stick to it and mix black & white, color, different papers to print on to see what would work out. Someday I will go back to those pictures and make a book.
CUS: Last but not least, what would you like to ask the next interviewee?
FH: As an artist, how do you manage your time?