Into the world of creatives
Who are you?
Nice to meet you guys, my name is Mikael Johansson and I’m a Photographer from Sweden. Currently I do a lot of work in London but the idea would be to established myself a bit more back in Stockholm over the coming years.
How does a shooting day looks like for you?
How I work on a shoot or how my day looks depends quite a bit on the type of project. Me working on personal projects or a portrait could be me working together with the model without anyone else in the team. Shooting a commercial project would most likely include a larger team with art directors, producers, styling, make-up, hair, assistants and digi-ops. Although I do like to have a very hands on approach and I like to keep my team as small as possible for a more relaxed personal set. I’ve been shooting a lot of e-comm and editorial content recently and that tends to be studio work. That means (depending on calltime) that I get up around 6am and make my way to the studio, and coffee, coffee is key.
What is the best subject you have shot?
I really like portraying and working with people that aren’t used to be in front of the camera, although it can be quite the challenge, for me it becomes more about the characters that way. I’ve had the habit recently of shooting a lot of candid casting portraits with an old point and shoot camera on black and white film. It allows me to strip away all the suggested beauty, make-up and glamour of a shoot and almost attempt to de-objectifying the model by subjectively portraying who hen really are.
We particularly like the series We are men, can you tell us more about it?
We Are Men is one of those projects that came about quite a long time ago but is still one of my projects that I have enjoyed working on the most. I set up to explore the way I portray the people in my pictures and how we, generally speaking, interpret a photograph. No matter connotations regarding gender, sexuality or beauty I wanted to question the way we look at portraits and how heavily influenced we are by the standards set by media i.e objectification of women. In most of my work I try to raise these issues. There is also a sense of romanticism in the pictures which are clearly inspired by Renaissance art. So it comes back to question what some people believe be the most valuable qualities in life, youth and beauty.
What material do you prefer working with? Do you have any tips?
I have always preferred working with film, and to be honest more clients seem to willingly let you shoot film because of current trends which is actually really fun. For studio projects I don’t mind digital, in most cases for me that means something from the Canon 5D range, but if Phase One could throw a camera my way that’d be gold, the quality on those backs are intense. With that said, I don’t think you need a diamond embellished pen to write a great novel. For me it’s more about the concept rather than the quality of the shot. I would say whatever camera feels good is what you should be shooting with, no matter quality or make, go with what’s comfortable.
Do you always have a camera with you? If so, which one?
Well, most of the time I carry an analogue point and shoot camera for random snaps, visual diary and to shoot things that inspire me. Usually that camera is an old and fairly knackered Ricoh Gr1. If not I always have my iPhone on me and for emergencies it kind of works.
What is the best photo you have ever seen?
Even if I spend hours trying to figuring out which photograph is the one that has affected me the most I still find the question itself too complicated, I mean there are a lot of great pictures out there. When it comes to art I really like work that provokes but a beautifully shot portrait with natural light will always hit a sweet spot for me. This is one that I would have to come back to for a second discussion.
Do you spend a lot of time post-processing your images?
Post-processing for me is more about grading, fixing curves and getting the colours on point rather than beauty retouch. I have a few amazing retouchers to help out when they’re needed. Again it does depend a lot on the client and this is one of the reasons I like shooting on film, most people are quite happy with minimum retouch on film and you can get away with just leaving the pictures be. I do think we have a lot shared responsibility in the industry if we want to shift the current beauty standards and the issues that it represents.