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Per Zennstrom worked for six years as an assistant in Stockholm and New York. Thereafter he went to Paris where he now works as a fashion and advertising photographer. Per Zennstrom creates his images without thinking too much about what's 'in' or what's 'out'. His main aim is to make images that are 'edgy elegant'. He loves computers and often edits his images in Photoshop, for example. The magazines he works for include; Dedicate, Depeche Mode, Rebel, Air France, Madame and Femme. Commercial clients include; Guy Laroche, Nina Ricci, Peugot, Marc Aurel, Steilman, Breuninger, Elegance, Venice Beach, Dior and Absolut Vodka. His 'heroes' are Penn, Frank, Kertez, Bravo and Knight.
How did you start in photography?
I started like a lot of kids, I guess, by loving the machines... Later on I realized that I could actually make images with them...
When did you start?
I must have been 16 or 17... On a school trip... My role was to make a 'photographic journal'... As we went to the 'Swedish heartland' I came back with a lot of pigs and cows... Did you have any other thoughts regarding choice of profession? I gave serious thoughts about going to architect school... Almost all of my buddies ended up there...
If you had to choose another area of photography - which one would it be?
I was independently wealthy I would probably roam the streets and cafes taking pictures and I would have my own web magazine to show stuff I like...
Describe your photographic background from an educational point of view?
I went to the university of Gothenburg to study photography there but I dropped out after 2 years. Not necessarily because I was unhappy but rather because I got an offer I couldn't refuse. I was offered an assistant position with Bjorn Keller in Stockholm and that you can't turn down. After some years with Bjorn he pushed me of out of the studio and away to NYC. He made me take that leap...
What is the key to your success?
First of all I don't feel like I'm 'successful'. I feel like I love what I do. Passion! It's more than just work...It's Your life!
As a whole, are you satisfied with what you have achieved in the photographic field?
No, there are so many things I want to do...
Dior, Guy Laroche, ABSOLUT VODKA, Nina Ricci, ...
Which photographers inspire you?
Irving Penn, Nick Night, Robert Frank, Andre Kertesz, Manuel Bravo, Giacomelli, Steven Klein... I also would like to mention all the inspiration I get from what's going on on the web. Maybe not so much from a photographic standpoint but more from how images are treated andused, the idea and design aspect of it... Sometimes we photographers are too much photographers and photography becomes a holy cow. We should see ourselves as idea people and image makers. I love the expression 'kill your darlings'... I also get a kick out of working with all these kids just out of art school starting their own magazines or creating their own websites...I was such a baby when I was their age!
What ambitions do you have with your photographic work, and with your pictures?
I want to be happy with every picture I take... Sounds abit simplistic but I think that's key...
What projects are you working on right now and what are your projects for the near future?
I'm trying to create a space on the web to show things I like...
Which productions are you most satisfied with?
I prefer to look forward. The most exiting things are always ahead of you!
What camera equipment do you use today?
I still have my old trusted 500EL
What do you think is important when it comes to a camera?
It has to work!
Your opinions about the square format?
Sometimes hard to fit on a page, especially single pages... Sometimes the square format is the only way to go, it all depends...
Describe how you go about taking a picture?
Ideas first, then technique... I try to respect the first idea I had, usually it's the right one. I don't have enough patience for longer projects, I don't think I could ever be a filmmaker, it takes too long and I would lose interest after a while... I sometimes have all the images 'ready and already shot' in my head. Then 'all' you have to do is just getting it on film. Other times you just dive right into the unknown...
How do you plan an assignment?
At first, very carefully, but once shooting You have to let go and let the shooting live it's own life!
Do you work mostly on assignments or on your own?
50/50 It's fun and strange and scary to get an assignment where you can do 'anything that you want, as long as it's beautiful' Really scary 'cause you can't blame anyone else if it's turns out like ****. Ask any photographer what they would do if they can do 'anything they want'. I bet you'd get a dumb, blank look back from most of us... Total freedom is hard and scary because it's all up to you!!!
What advice would you give to a young photographer who would make a career like yours?
Believe in yourself and never, ever give up!
Anything you regret in your professional career?
Lots, but I'm not going to tell!
Your most positive experiences in your career?
Being able to wake up every morning looking forward to the day ahead. I never, ever felt like I was 'going to work' I'm proud of that !
What do you enjoy most in your life?
My son and life itself, images, the way a girl's hair feels after a day on the beach, training and racing triathlons,computers, web design, browsing in a good bookstore...
Do you have a family?
I have a 9 year old son...
Can you successfully combine a family life with your work?
I don't want to make a separation between those two things... I wouldn't be the same photographer without myson and likewise I wouldn't be the same daddy without photography...
Do you photograph in you spare time, what objects?
I try not to make the distinction between work, and nonwork images...
What are your plans/dreams for the future?
Finally being able to get that website on-line...
Interview by Kerstin Fiedler
The Hasselblad Masters 2002
Per Zennstrom is one of the Hasselblad Masters - 12 highly skilled photographers, carefully chosen by Hasselblad to feature in the Hasselblad Calendar 2002. Per was the March photographer. Work of the other 11 will appear in ePHOTOzine's portfolio area over the coming months.