Interview: Jens Olof Lasthein speaks to in[+]frame
Jens Olof Lasthein was born 1964 in Sweden and grew up in Denmark. Before deciding to be a photographer he worked as a shipyard worker and a busdriver. He was educated at the Nordic Photo School in Stockholm 1989-92. Since then he has been working as a freelance photographer. He has had about 50 solo exhibitions at galleries, museums and festivals around the world, and has participated in numerous group shows. In 2010 he won the Leica Oskar Barnack Award. He has published the books 'Moments in Between' (2000), 'White Sea Black Sea' (2008) and 'Home Among Black Hills' (2014). He is currently working on a book project about the Caucasus.
‘‘...I want my pictures to include contradictions and irrationality, and I want them to tell simultaneous stories of hope and despair, of joy as well as sorrow...”
- Has your photographic approach changed over the years and how?
Not really, I must admit. I’ve been following much the same trail all the time. But of course I’ve developed along the way. I hope I’m now digging deeper than before. I’m more aware of what I’m doing than when I was younger, so now it’s a challenge to keep the thoughtless intuition, which is so necessary for the pictures to be alive.
- What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from shooting?
That no person or no encounter is like any other. During the years I gather experience, ie. I’m extending my toolbox. And that makes me dare more and go further, and that’s good. But no matter how many people I’ve met and photographed, the next encounter will always be different and make me learn more. That’s, I think, one of the biggest joys of photographing and one of the main things that makes it continuously adventurous.
- Do you see your personality reflected in your work?
Yes, that’s the whole point of it. When the personality of the photographer is not reflected it gets uninteresting. The impression is blank. But personality is not a fixed thing, it develops and there are many layers. The challenge is to always try to be open to that and not misinterpret the concept into simply finding an aesthetic ”style”.
- What would you say characterizes your work?
It differs from project to project, depending on the topic, on what period of my life I’ve made it etc. I try to incorporate political as well as existential aspects. And I realize that others see and stress different things in my pictures, and that’s fine with me. Still I can see that often when I get the closest to myself and when I feel I get the necessary kick of adrenaline when photographing, it’s when I find some quietness in the surroundings and with the people I’m with. In that quietness I can start searching for the little cracks and holes where some truth of life seeps out. At crowded noisy places I have a hard time finding room for myself. I guess I’m talking about a certain level of melancholy which is always present to a smaller or larger extent. But that is very general, I hope there is much more to my pictures than that.
- Among your work, which is your favorite and why?
Up till now I think it’s the book White Sea Black Sea about the borderland between eastern and western Europe, because it has many levels in atmosphere and understanding. But luckily I reached some new insights and levels in my latest book Home Among Black Hills from the Belgian city Charleroi, it’s just that I made that in much shorter time than I normally spend on my projects. And I believe I am also reaching a bit farther in my ongoing work from the Caucasus, which will hopefully be a book in a year or so. Time will tell.
- What advice would you give to someone just starting out on a photographic journey?
Be free to feel inspired by anything, other photographers, art, poetry, whatever. But at some point you must turn inwards to your own unique stories and truths. Because these are the only true source of creativity, development and eventually pictures that stick deep and mean something to yourself as well as to others.