Interview with Hakan Strand
#1 Please introduce yourself:
My name is Hakan Strand, born 1959. I live in Stockholm, Sweden with my wife and our two sons.
#2 How did you get interested in photography?
I became interested in photography as a teenager when I chose the subject as an elective course in school, back in 1973. The teacher we had was brilliant. He acted like a magician when he revealed all the mysteries in the darkroom. I still remember when I saw my first photograph being developed in front of my eyes. It was a magic moment. I didn’t really understand it then, but that moment would have a huge inpact in my life.
#3 Do you have an artistic/photographic background?
I have a background as a musician. I played guitar in several bands from the mid 70s to the early 80s, but I don’t have any formal training or education in photography.
#4 Which artist/photographer inspired your art?
I find inspiration from many different sourses; music, paintings, movies, even dreams and memories. I also, of course, get lots of inspiration from other photographers. I like photographers who work in a classic, traditional way, but with a strong artistic approach. If we exclude the old masters, I like contempory photographers such as Michael Kenna, Bill Schwab and Kirsten Klein. I especially like the work of the Danish photographer Kirsten Klein. Kirsten has been a successful photographer since the late ’60s.
I was invited to visit Kirsten Klein in her home in Denmark a few years ago. It was quite exciting to see her darkroom where so many of her masterpieces have been created. She is also a very humble and kind person whom I admire with the deepest respect. Her photographic work is outstanding. Several of my favorite photographers are inspired by her work, especially her black and white landscapes and seascapes.
#5 How much preparation do you put into taking a photograph? Are you planning every step or is it always spontaneous?
I always plan my photo trips very carefully. I select a few areas with some specific motifs that I want to photograph. When I have accomplished my mission, I often spend a few extra days on the location and play it by ear. I like to just stroll around and explore the surroundings and take photographs of things that I find interesting.
I also check the weather forecasts quite carefully. Even though I enjoy sunny, bright days, I don’t like taking photographs in these conditions. Contrary to many others here in Scandinavia, I like our misty, cold and long winters. I enjoy working in ”bad weather,” particularly when the landscape is covered in snow, mist and fog, or simply under an endless dull, gray sky. These weather conditions are actually key ingredients in my work.
#6 What fascinates you in places that you shoot?
That’s a hard question. It’s diffrent from time to time and from place to place. In general, especially when I work with landscapes, I like to minimize the number of objects in the image area. My aim is to make the picture as clean and simple as possible, free from distracting details. This enhances the objects that are in the image. My emphasis is on composition. I often shoot the same object from different angles in order to find the variation that I like best.
#7 We can see your photographs only in black and white, why have you chosen to present them in this form?
I always liked black and white photographs. I have several books with old photos from Stockholm. I think a good black and white photograph has aesthetic qualities which I find appealing. I like the relationship between the darkest black and purest white, and all the variations of grey in between. I also like well- composed photographs with strong graphic elements, which I think can be enhanced in black and white.
#8 Could you please tell us something about your technique and creating process?
I have two Hasselblad medium format cameras, one from 1973 and one from 1982. I develop my own negatives, mostly 10 minutes in Xtol. I am very careful when I develop the negatives. I hang the wet film in a homemade tent, which gives me 99% dust free negatives.
I don’t print myself. Printing is an artform in itself. I let the professionals do the printing in order to get the best prints possible, both my silver gelatin prints and my inkjet prints.
When I scan the negatives, I just do some basic adjustment like croping, contrast adjustment, dodge and burn, ect. I often add a slightly warm tone, which I think gives a nice atmosphere to the images.
Regarding the technical part of photography. It has been said many times before, but it’s well worth repeating; the most significant factor that makes a photograph stand out is the light. The tecnical part is really not that important, that’s at least my experience, and I am quite sure many other photographers agree with me on that.
#9 Most of photographers have favorite light conditions, as well as time of day and season of year. When you are doing your photographs?
As I mentioned before, most of my work is done in the fall and winter. I also prefer to work in the dusk and dawn when the light is easier to controll. Even though it can be hard to catch, I love the special light that can be found just before or after a storm.
#10 Could you tell our readers how to reach such excellent results in photography?
I can’t remember who said this, ’’no matter what you do, a combination of hard work and determination, and sometimes a bit of luck, will eventually pay off in good results’’. I think that can also be applied to photography.
#11 What do you do in your life besides photography?
I am very fortunate to be able to work fulltime as a fine art photographer. Otherwise, I spend most of my time with my family and friends.
#12 What future plans do you have? What projects would you like to accomplish?
Right now I am working on a project called Scandinavia, together with a curator, Nina Grundemark. She is the owner of the gallery Swedish Photography in Berlin, Germany. This project will include a period of extensive travel in the Scandinavian countries in the near future. This will hopefully result in a fine exhibition, and ultimately a book.
Hakan Strand Official Website: