With less than 10 days to go in the Aesthetica Art Prize call for entries countdown, we turn to previously longlisted artist Johan Lund, whose photograph Into the mist (2014) was published in the Art Prize Anthology, Future Now. Lund is a nature and landscape photographer from the west coast of Sweden. Via photography, he captures the beauty of the world around us and invites the viewer to stand still and step out of the busyness of modern society.
A: Into the mist captures a moment of peace and tranquillity through photography. What drew you to work with this medium?
JL: I bought my first proper camera when my first child was born, to take better images of my children – and I discovered photography. While on vacation with the family I could sneak out and get a quiet moment for myself in nature, away from cell phones and other distractions.
The irony is that my dad was a pretty well-known photographer in Sweden and I often worked for him during the summer vacations to earn some extra money, but it was just a job then. I had to make some money to be able to buy music gear but other than that there was no interest in photography from my side. Now it feels like I’ve come full circle and rediscovered this medium. I’m seeing things with different eyes now and with a different perspective.
A: Much of your work captures slow movement and natural landscapes. What is inspirational about this subject matter?
JL: We all have ways of dealing with the burdens of daily life – mine is via photography, and I want that to show in my images. There is an undeniable human connection to nature. Research has shown that a walk in nature has much more calming and beneficial effects on the mind than a walk in the city jungle. Just looking at images of nature seem to have a soothing effect on the human mind. Really, we should surround ourselves with images of nature to a much greater extent than most people do.
A: Could you discuss your thought processes and techniques when producing an image?
JL: My images are not always plain reproductions of nature. I allow myself to add and remove, mostly I remove distractions. I am fascinated by simple lines and graphical elements that occur naturally in nature both on a grand scale but also in intimately granular settings. I always look for these graphical elements and many people probably think I photograph and do weird things, lying on the ground, climbing trees and mountains just to get the perfect angle.
If you watch my collection of images you can see that I sometimes take the simple to the extreme but there is also beauty in the complex and I can’t resist intricate repeating patterns. However, the more I can simplify something, even if it’s something complex, the quieter the image tends to become. This is an overarching goal for me both when taking the photograph and when processing it.
A: Your longlisted piece features a subdued colour pallet. Is this important to the way in which the work is viewed?
JL: For me colour and contrast are tools to increase the volume of an image. I think they are completely overused and even abused by many photographers. I use colour and tone to gently direct attention and my goal is to create something peaceful and elegant so I’m being restrictive rather than generous.
Many of my photographs are unable to compete with the loudness of the common photographic streams that you see on the internet. This is intentional. I have tried contrast-heavy, over-processed HDR looks before (I still have a few of them in my portfolio) but I realised that they are much harder to hang on a wall and they do not blend well in a room. These types of images are more for when you want to make a statement. They tend to be more short lived and it’s not what I’m after. I am also very much drawn to a painted look. I do this by omitting having a true black- and white point, slightly warmed up tones and printing on a highly grained paper. You can only really experience this fully live.
A: How do you see your practice developing in the future?
JL: Hopefully I will sell some images and be able to visit even more exotic locations. I will also continue to develop my personal style even more, making it easier for people to recognise my work. Much of the photography I’m doing now has to do with producing the actual piece of art such as printing and framing, and making very large pieces of work. These are areas of improvement for me.
A: What advice would you give to others emerging in your field?
JL: Keep developing your own style. Don’t do what everyone else is doing. You don’t have to be completely different, but have your own flare at least. Don’t sell yourself too cheap. Better sell one expensive piece and maintain your integrity than many cheap ones – it’s also less work for you. Don’t forget to put on shows. Remember that YOU are the brand – stand out. If your art is already quite good, work on your other skills such as marketing and communications. Don’t give up…
To see more of Johan Lund’s photography, visit www.johanlund.com
1. Johan Lund, Into the mist (2014)