Some people have a rigid and fixed view on photography, in their mind a photographer does not take leap of faith and try new things. Others, like our friend Måsse, knows exactly what it means to have fun with it.
Born in a very artistic family in Sweden, he is now dedicating his love for photography in Malmö, where he has a studio. For him photography is a way to express, through fashion images, meanings and visual concepts, in fact, his knowledge about visual comprehension is the very foundation of his language.
A knowledge that allows him to have a deep view of the photography scenario that nowadays characterizes our lifes and our society. Måsse recognizes the power of the social part involved in shooting pictures as an art, which in his opinion is what creates physical collaborations between different kinds of artists.
The kind of photography you’re about to see is the result of a perfect balance between playful experimentation and strong technical background. It’s the result of creativity and knowledge.
INTERVIEW WITH Måsse Hjeltman
Hi Måsse, I’m truly glad for this interview. So, let’s start, tell me something about yourself and your relationship with photography.
Thank you. I’m honoured for being asked. I think my journey started when I was trying out my fathers dark room equipment in our house when I was around 14-years old. I was fascinated by the pictures coming from a roll of film and then on to a blank paper. But at that time I had no clue about the importance of light and compositions so it was just me playing around with no particular direction and with a crappy outcome. But I found photography as a worthy hobby when everyone else where chasing after a football and competed for social status. I had no interest in that and not the knowledge of how to do it.
I know that you are fascinated by colours, form, and composition. When did you realise about this fascination? Is it related to your studies or a specific path?
Well, growing up in a family that had theatre and art painting as their craft and income and on top of that being dragged around by the same to various art exhibitions and theatre shows you can say I was born into it. Color and form has been there since early childhood. But my parents didn’t give in for photography even though my father had his own darkroom equipment.
I had to find my way to the art form myself. I think that photography was just a passage for my father before he gave all of his passion to painting. But the love for the art of photography and the fascination for It came to me when I was around 18-19 years old and I fell deeply in love with music. So through pop culture and the photography covers of vinyl LP covers of various pop-stars I discovered creators like Anton Corbijn through his connection with Joy Division, Depeche Mode and U2 and was totally fascinated by the richness of colours, light and shadows in his pictures. It was more art than just random snap photography wich was my previous experience at that time. At that point I understood that photography is an art form but I wasn’t convinced that I could do it.
Do you think that your photography style is, in some ways, related to a trend or an influence that you received by someone else, like some famous portrait photographer?
I’m not much for trends, I want my pictures to be classic and timeless so I would say that my style is influenced by several classic photographers but the inspiration also comes from books, films, music and life philosophy. Contrast might come from one photographer, light from another and color from a third. But you also have to consider what kind of photographer you want to be. That’s where life philosophy comes and takes part of the photographic process. There’s always a choice in how you want to portrait people. Your way of looking at people through your camera reflects how people will look at you through your art. It tells a story about who you are and your view of things.
I saw that most of your portfolio is composed by fashion photos, what do you like the most about this genre?
I find fashion photography to be an experimental, expressive and sometimes an odd part of photography. I find more interesting pictures that pushes the boundaries when I look at fashion photography and it fascinates me. There is more weirdness and playfulness than I find in common portrait photography. I’m drawn to it because it makes me more creative and lustfull in my work. I wouldn’t stand doing office portraits with a white background and correct lightning.
I absolutely loved your double exposure picture, the one with the trees, it really talked to me. Is part of a project or some kind form related experimentation with film?
Haha, No thats just me exploring the abilities of a new pocket-camera from Fuji that I purchased. I had the idea of taking pictures on various things on the street or whatever. Like a street photographer. But I realised I’m not interested enough to just stroll around looking for pictures. It became clear to me that, for me, it’s a waste of time and my creativity comes better to its rights when I can plan ahead and think things through before the actual shoot. So I sold the camera after six months and bought more stuff for the studio instead. But thank you, glad you liked it!
Now, let’s get down to business. What kind of visual language are you trying to express with your pictures?
It’s mainly about beauty and the idea of what I find beautiful. What I like to lay my eyes on. It’s really superficial. But beauty can be important in a world full of cruelty. It’s our chance to breathe and gives the strength to carry on in our daily routines. That’s important too. Beauty to me is strength, weakness, proudness, sadness, weirdness and distance. Among other things. It’s connected to the objects that I portrait. A portrait of a woman should be strong and not objectified in a sexual way. A portrait of a man could be weak and sad. It’s interests me to work against what society expect from our society formed genders.
Is your fascination for form and colours included within the language itself or it’s just a collateral thing?
I always thought that photographic pictures looked best in black and white. And the idea was that my work should go in that direction too. But it doesn’t follow the path I planned. So when I plan for a new photoshoot the colours and the forms is included and important. I find myself more often now than before planning my shoots by drawing sketches of poses, clothes, hairstyle, light and environment for every shot. The conclusion is that these photoshoots is the ones that I’m most pleased with and I really don’t like the ones where the approach is ”see What happens”. So I would say color and form is an important part of my language.
What do you like the most about photography as a medium?
The social part. Especially when the model and the HMUA understands what picture we are going for. And gets exited about it. That makes the collaboration fun and fruitful. And I also love the visual control. That includes the ideas that comes to mind and the planning before set and the actual shooting. You could do all that that as a painter too but I’m not good enough and I don’t have the patience. So, I guess I could also say the speed in the work even though I’m a very slow photographer who doesn’t click away one thousand shots in one photoshoot anymore.
Do you think photography is losing its meaning nowadays? What is your opinion about this topic?
No, if I thought so I wouldn’t do it anymore. The idea that photography is dead because people have cellular phones and uploads pictures at daily basis at various social media platforms doesn’t work for me. It’s like saying music is dead cause there is a GarageBand app on your phone and everyone can do music with it and upload it on Myspace. And we know that thats not the case. It’s one thing to be able to take a picture and another thing to do pictures. If you know the art of photography you can easily depart the snaps and the trendy influencer photographer shots from the artists that makes good photographic content. But you have to put some effort to it and look at pictures for hours, then you start to understand whats good and what’s not. But then again, it’s all about taste.
Is there something you’re up to right now, like learning new skills/techniques or doing some new project?
My focus right now is not that much around techniques. I’m focusing more on the pictures that’s In my head and that wants to come out and be created. I will focus more on expressing feelings and emotions through body language and facial expressions. I have a background in theatre so that might explain my interest in the area. I will also try to put more weirdness in my upcoming photoshoots.