Spotlight for Inspiration - Victoria Soderstrom
You are one of my favorite photographers. Your work is outstanding! I'm in love with your stories and images! I am so glad that I have the chance to interview you.
Wow, thank you so much!! I’m very excited to be interviewed :)
Let's start by talking about you and your personal life. Where are you from? Are you married? Do you have any children?
I’m from Skellefteå, a town in the north of Sweden with beautiful nature and landscapes. The city is called “Gold Town” because of the mining industry. I moved back here in January. Before that, I’ve been living pretty much everywhere do to studies, work, and traveling :) I’m 29 and haven’t got married yet, even though I own three wedding dresses haha! And I have no children yet.
WOW! I've never heard of this town before! Love the name!
What sort of studies were you doing?
I’ve been studying both psychology and photography. I have a BA in psychology and took a one-year course in photography.
That's amazing! I studied psychology as well! We are psych buddies! HAHA. Love it.
So...when did you first pick up a camera and why?
Haha psych buddies! I love that!! :)
When I was a child I had my own analogue pocket camera. But I didn’t use it that much. And I took a photography course when I was 17 but I didn’t like it at all. We only did black & white, analogue photography and my photos always came out flat and dull. :P I believe my first photo experiences weren’t that positive haha. But a couple of years later I got in to photography while traveling. I wanted to share the experience with my family and friends and we were continuously uploading photos on a traveling site. For me, back then, photography was all about capturing moments and collecting memories. :)
You know, I see a pattern where most of the people I interview start out when they were either little or just documenting their life in some way, shape, or form.
After that, what happened?
I guess that's a good way to start :)
Then, my passion for photography grew and I decided to invest in my hobby. I bought a DSLR camera, started experimenting and I was definitely hocked. I also took a course learning the basics in Photoshop and a whole new world opened up. I think I’ve always liked the fact that with Photoshop pretty much everything is possible :)
At what age did you invest in the DSLR?
I think it was in 2008 and I was 24. :)
What did you start experimenting with? Fine Art? Portraiture? Landscapes?
I liked portraiture at first. I remember shooting wedding portraits once and it was hard; I was nervous and it was SO much work! And of course, I agreed giving the couple all the photos I took. I spend many days editing them and I didn’t charge the couple enough. I have learnt a lot since then and now, I would do them fine art style and maybe do one or two concepts and that’s it. I’m more into quality instead of quantity now. :)
So you only did a wedding once?
Yep, only once. I realized that wedding photography wasn't really my cup of tea. :P
And I discovered fine art instead :)
And...after you tried wedding photography...you went directly into fine art? How did you discover it?
As for many others, it kind of started with Brooke Shaden. :D I remember that the first photo I saw was the one with all the blue butterflies. The one where she has lengthened her hair, and her eyes are very blue. I thought she was a model at first and not a photographer. But then I realized that she did both. She was very inspiring and I loved watching all her behind the scenes videos.
Another big step was attending that one-year photography course in 2012 and I met my dear friend Beata Rydén. We were inspired by the same artists and she helped me a lot in the developing of my style. Conceptual photography isn’t that well-known in Sweden and without Beata I might have felt alone in what I did.
WOW...I've said this before and I'll say it again... I don't think she realizes how many lives she's changed!
Brooke I mean!
Tell me about your friend Beata!
I know! That's incredible! Brooke is amazing!
Well, Beata lives in Gothenburg and she's one of the best people I know in so many ways. She’s empathic, thoughtful, creative, and very talented in both photography and music.
Beata and I have decided to start teaching workshops together :) We don’t have everything figured out yet but it will have something to do with conceptual photography. We just need to find the time planning everything. :)
She definitely sounds like an amazing friend. Is she part of our group?
And... please, let us know your plans for the workshops when you figure it out!
Yes, she's part of the group! :)
I will definitely tell you more about our workshop when we have figured it out :)
You told me that you studied psychology and photography. Do you have any other hobbies or interests?
Another interest I have is writing and at first I wanted to become a journalist, a scriptwriter or a copywriter. I love storytelling but I think my favorite part of writing is poetry. Being able to put feelings into words and manage to use the right words to describe the right feeling is just so liberating. But I’m more into the visual aspect and I love putting feelings and thoughts into photography even more.
But besides that, I love spending time with friends, lying on a blanket in a park listening to music and walk or run in nature.
And I do spend too much time playing Candy crush saga!! Haha!!
HAHA, that’s so awesome!
Tell me about your style! How did you develop the style you have now?
Hmm, I quess my style developed from knowing what I didn’t like. I didn’t like more traditional photography that much and wanted something else. I started experimenting in Photoshop and was inspired by photographers like Brooke Shaden, Lissy Elle, Sarolta Bán, Erik Johansson and Jenni Penni. I wanted to use my creativity and felt that I had stories I wanted to tell. :)
Love that! Where do you think those stories come from?
Meaning...what inspires you?
Some stories comes from within. Thoughts and feelings I want to express and questions I want to ask. Often my photos deal with psychological concepts. Like loneliness, captivity/freedom, the need to belong somewhere, longing, waiting, wishing. I’m interested in the human being, our inner worlds and how we are part of, and sometimes trapped, in a society we constantly are being affected by. I’m inspired by psychology, music, quotes, nature, other photographers, paintings.
Wow that's wonderful. Love to hear that as I can relate.
Do you ever see a recurring theme?
I'm glad you can :) Maybe that's because we're psych buddies! ;D
I had a portfolio review with a Swedish photographer and gallery owner last year. He discovered that a common theme in many of my photos was captivity versus freedom. Not until he said it, I realized that he was right. I keep coming back to it.
Yes we are!!!! Exactly!
Why do you think that is? That you keep coming back?
I’ve thought about it myself… why I find that theme so fascinating, and I’m not sure. Maybe because I feel like a free spirit and I’ve always loved traveling. If I don’t like one place I’m not staying. I have a hard time taking a job I really don’t like just for money - that would make me feel trapped. And I see people keeping jobs they don’t like and staying in cites or relationships they feel trapped in and I guess I’m working these things out with my photography.
WOW! I feel like I'm talking with myself. I'm the same way. I do not stay in jobs I feel trapped in.
I don't stay in for the money!
That's why I have no job and I only do photography! HAHA!
It seems like we have a lot in common :)
Yes it does! Very awesome.
So, I love that you are able to express and show what you truly feel through your photography! I have to tell you that I'm in love with your photography. The tones and the softness of it makes me love it more. I'm a big fan of your work!
You told me that you've had an owner of a gallery look at your work! Why is that? Were you trying to get into a show? Or did you simply want people to evaluate your work?
Aww!! Thank you so much!! I'm so glad you love what I'm doing! Thanks a million for your support!! <3
We had a portfolio review with three successful Swedish photographers when I studied photography. They came to our school and everyone had about 20-30 minutes with each photographer. I remember that it was a great learning experience, to describe your own work and receive feedback.
Oh that does sound amazing! I bet it was a great experience!
Have you ever had your work shown in any galleries?
Besides BeHuman Gallery now, of course!
Yes, I’ve had my work shown at Stockholm’s photo fair, the Nordic region’s largest photography market. It was my first exhibition and a great experience. I’ve also had two photos shown at “Galleri Kontrast” in Stockholm. That was a really beautiful place with a big, beautiful, old window in the ceiling. Here’s a link if you want to see what it looked like. http://www.gallerikontrast.se/english/index.html I loved that place. And besides from these two, I’ve had one other exhibition at “Scandinavian photo” at Galleri Kontrast. www.gallerikontrast.se
Galleri Kontrast is an independent gallery in Sweden devoted to photography. It was founded in 1996 and is situated at Hornsgatan 8 in Stockholm. The building was originally a bank in the beginning of the last century and is now a wonderful exhibition hall.
WOW, that's fabulous, Congratulations! I bet you have a great sense of achievement! I know I would.
Let's talk about your process when creating an image. How do you come up with your ideas and then, how do you plan the shoot for that idea?
Thank you!! I’m very grateful for the opportunities I got! I learnt a lot and met a lot of nice people! :) And I'm sooo excited about the Be U exhibition too. That's the first time I'm showing my work overseas.
Typically, I come up with an idea when I’m listening to music, walking in nature, reading a quote, or seeing a prop I like. Then, I write the idea down and make a terrible looking sketch, trying to give shape to the vision I have in my mind. I try to plan as much as possible before going out shooting the concept; pose, camera angle, prop, location. Typically, I shoot in nature and I love adding mystery in some way, for example by using fog, smoke, darkness and turned away faces. But sometimes I just shoot without planning anything. I might just take my camera with me on a walk and see what happens. :)
Do you usually use models or yourself?
Usually myself because I know exactly what I’m looking for in a photo and I’m always available, haha. I love shooting at sunrise or just before sunrise. And in Sweden during summer the sun rises so early. I was out shooting at 2.30 am last summer and I guess it’s a bit hard to find a model willing to wake up that early. Or stay up that late, haha; depending on how you look at it. But I love shooting models too. That’s easier in another aspect. Then, I don’t have to run back and forth to see how the photo came out. And I don’t have to struggle with the focus. In some of my best photos, Beata Rydén modeled for me. And because she’s also a photographer shooting conceptual photography she knows what I want and has the patience she knows we need sometimes. And she’s always up for my crazy ideas. :)
Oh that's great. It would be fun to shoot with other photographers as models!
Now, let's talk about PS. Do you think it is a necessary tool for all conceptual photographers to be successful?
No, I don’t think Photoshop is necessary to be successful. I believe the important thing in conceptual photography is the concept itself. But I love experimenting in Photoshop though.
What’s your favorite PS tool?
The tool I use the most is curves. I'm also a big fan of layer masks, blending modes, painting with a brush directly on the photo, photomerge and one thing that really made a big difference was when I discovered clipping masks.
What's your favorite part of the whole process... from planning, to shooting, to processing!?
Hmm.. That's a hard question. I love the whole process! Staying up late planning and visualizing, going out in nature breathing fresh air, using props and trying to collect the material I need and then go inside, drinking some tea and create magic in post. :)
How has clipping masks made a difference? What do you do with clipping masks?
To give an example, I use clipping masks when I have one part in the photo that needs to be darker or lighter. Let’s say we have a photo of a bird, drag it into the main photo and notice that the bird is too light to look realistic. Then, I would create a new curve adjustment layer right above the bird layer, change the light in curves and create a clipping mask. Then, the effect I did only affects the bird layer and not the whole photo.
Love it! Thank you for the tip. I think that little tips or examples like these are really good to have in interviews so that people can learn new things just by getting to know one new person!
I’m excited that I already knew how to do that… I just didn’t know that’s what it was called! HAHA!
I know you stated previously you were inspired by several other photographers. Do you think that your work is influenced by any of those or any other artists? Such as painters?
I think my work is influenced by all the photos and all the art I've seen and liked. I guess I take small parts with me and mix it with influences from within.
Your work truly comes from within and it's a beautiful thing!
Let's change the topic a bit. Do you sell your work? Or do you only do it for the love of it?
Thank you so much Rocío!!
Yes, I do sell my work as limited fine art prints with a white border. I really like the thought of having my work in other people's homes knowing that others appreciate my art. :)
What advice do you want to give to the photographers in the group?
I would like to say: If you want something in life, reach out and grab it. :) A quote from the movie "Into the wild". Sometimes it's just that simple. Just reach for the things you want and I'm sure amazing things will happen. Because there is no failure except in no longer trying.
What a beautiful quote!!! I definitely agree with you. The only failure is not trying! Thank you for taking the time to chat with me and tell me all about your work and your passion. I'm in love with everything and am so happy to have met you! <3
Thank you so much Rocío!! Thanks for the interview! It was my pleasure!!
Victoria's Gift of Inspiration: