My name is Erik Johansson, I was born in 1985 outside a small town called Götene in the middle of Sweden. I grew up on a farm with my parents and two younger sisters. For as long as I can remember I have liked drawing. Probably because of my grandmother who was a painter. Early I also got interested in computers, escaping to other worlds in computer games. At the age of 15 I got my first digital camera which opened up a new world. Being used to drawing it felt quite strange to be done after capturing a photo, it wasn’t the process of creating something in the same way. Having an interest in computers made it a quite natural step to start playing around with the photos and creating something that you couldn’t capture with the camera. It was a great way of learning, learning by trying. But I didn’t considered it as a profession until years later.
In 2005 I moved to Gothenburg to study Computer engineering at Chalmers University of Technology. During my time studying I took up my interest for retouch once again. I had a lot of ideas that I wanted to realize and I saw it as problem solving trying to make it as realistic as possible. After publishing some of my images online I started to get requests about commissioned work from some local advertisement agencies. I started out freelancing in parallel with my studies while still working on personal projects. I got more and more jobs and at the time I finished my studies with a master in Interaction Design I felt like I rather wanted to try out the photography path. I moved to Norrköping in the eastern part of Sweden to start working full time as a freelance. I made new friends and got to work on interesting projects, both local and abroad. In early 2012 it was time for something new as I moved to Berlin, Germany. A very artistic city with lots of inspiration.
Today I work with both personal and commissioned projects, in 2011 I also started doing photography street illusions and in 2013 I plans to start working on the film side. In November 2011 I spoke at the TED conference in London about my images and in May 2013 at the Adobe MAX conference. I’ve been working with clients such as Google, Adobe and Microsoft but the personal work and concepts will always be what’s most important. Growing up on the Swedish countryside had a big impact on my visual style. A lot of the environments in my photos are captured near places I know, around my parents’ home with wide open landscapes and small red houses. Inspiration is everywhere and what you can imagine is what you can create.
inspire, be inspired
Erik, May 2013
This is a selection of the most frequently asked questions I get. If you can’t find what you’re looking for here feel free to send me a mail or give me a call.
Q: Where did you learn how to create the kind of photos you do?
A: I am self-taught in both photography and retouch. I discovered that it was fun to change and modify photos for fun in the year 2000 when I got my first digital camera. For me the realism has always been very important and it’s a challenge to make a sketch come to life in a photo. In the end it’s just the imagination that sets the limits.
Q: Where do you find inspiration?
A: I get inspiration from all things around me. Anything from things I see in my daily life to other artist’s work and photography. I think it’s a lot about looking at the world from a different perspective. I always try to come up with original ideas and I especially like perspective illusions. I think I get more inspiration from painters rather than photographers. For me the ideas are as important as the realization. Some websites I visit for inspiration:
Q: What people inspires you?
A: These are some of the artists that inspires me the most
Salvador Dali - Spanish surrealist painter
M.C. Escher - Dutch graphic artist
René Magritte - Belgian surrealist artist
Rob Gonsalves - Canadian painter
Jacek Yerka - Polish painter
Shaun Tan – Australian illustrator
Mattias Adolfsson – Swedish illustrator
Sven Nordqvist – Swedish illustrator/author
Q: What are the different stages to create a photo?
A: Simplified the process is divided into three different parts. It always starts with a sketch, a simple idea. Not many ideas get realized, but if I think it’s good enough I decide to realize it.
The first part is planning. Once I’ve come up with an idea that I think is good enough to realize I need to find the places I need to shoot to put the photo together. This can take anywhere between a few days to several months, sometimes years. This is the most important step as it defines the look and feel of the photo, it’s my raw material. This step also includes problem solving, how to make the reflections, materials etc. realistic.
The second part is shooting/collecting the material. I never use stock photography in my personal projects, I always want to be in complete control of my photos and feel like I’ve done everything myself. It limits me in a way that I can’t realize all ideas I have, but limitations are good sometimes to define the work. A similar light and perspective is extremely important to create a realistic result when combining the photos.
The final part is putting the photos together. This takes anything from a few days to several weeks. This is actually the easiest step, if I did a good job in the first and second step. This part is like a puzzle, I have all the pieces, I just need to put them together.
Q: What is your background? Have your studied photography/retouch?
A: I studied computer engineer at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden 2005-2010. I graduated in 2010 with a master in Interaction Design.
I’ve always had a big interest for both drawing and computers. I think that is one if the reasons why it was a natural step for me to modify the photos in the computer. Photography and retouch always felt more like a hobby so I choose the engineering path instead. As I finished my studies in 2010 I already worked part time as a freelance doing work for some advertisement agencies in Sweden. Although I still find interaction design a very interesting subject, photography and retouch is my passion and what I love. That made me become photographer/retoucher on fulltime when I graduated.
Q: I want to learn how to do creative montages, what advice do you have?
A: Doing montages are just like painting. The difference is that the photos are your colors and the canvas is in the computer. I believe that the best way of learning is by trying, maybe you don’t learn the fastest or correct way, but at least you learn what the different tools do and what YOU can do with them. To become good requires a lot of patience and practice. Try to find your style and search for tutorials online. E.g. www.worth1000.com/tutorials or just Google “photoshop tutorials”. If you understand Swedish this is a good place to start: http://www.moderskeppet.se Good luck, have fun!
Q: Do you give out any tutorials?
A: No, see question above.
Q: Can I use/”buy the rights” to you’re photos for my album cover / book / presentation / product etc?
A: All my personal projects are not to be commercialized or connected to any product or brand in any way. If you like my style I do accept commissioned projects. Send me a mail or give me a call and let’s discuss it.
Q: Do you accepts commissioned projects?
A: Yes, send me a mail or give me a call if you have a project in mind.
Q: What equipment do you use to create your photos?
A: A short summary of the tools I use to create my photos:
Camera: Canon EOS 5d mark II
Lenses: Canon EF 24-70/2.8L USM, Canon EF 17-40/4L USM, Canon EF 70-200/4L USM and some prime lenses.
Flashes: Elinchrom RX600 and Canon flashes
Computer: Home-built PC, Windows 7 64-bit, Eizo Coloredge monitors.
Software: Adobe Photoshop CS5, I use no 3d-software which some might think
Q: Can I buy signed prints or posters of your personal work?
A: At this point I only sell reproduction prints. Signed and numbered prints may be available in the future. Let me know if you’re interested in signed prints by sending me a mail and I’ll let you know when they are available. You can buy high quality reproduction prints here: http://fineartpub.com/artists/erik-johansson/
Q: Do you work full time with photography and retouch?
A: Yes, I try to find time to work with personal projects as well but the commissioned projects are what I do for a living. Although my personal projects are what I love it’s fun and challenging to realize other peoples ideas as well. Sadly, I don’t spend as much time on my personal work as I would like to.
Q: How long does it usually take to realize one photo from idea to final piece?
A: It can take anything from a few weeks to several months. Some ideas requires even longer time as it’s hard to find the perfect spot to shoot or maybe it’s the wrong season.
Q: How would you describe your style?
A: Sureal ideas realized in a realistic way with a touch of humor. I can’t really say that I’ve decided what I want my style to look like. It becomes what it becomes, I just realize the ideas that come to my mind.
Q: Does music play a role in your work?
A: Music is a very important part of my work. I always listen to music when I do the post production, mostly electronic music as it gets me into a good flow. You’ll find a spotify playlist here: Erik Johansson Spotify
Q: A word of advice
A: There is not really a plan how to do it, it’s just about making it look like it could have been captured, making it look like the real world looks. I think learning by trying is the best way but remember that the idea is as important as the realization. Try to think differently about the world.
Speaker at the Adobe MAX conference in Los Angeles May 2013
Speaker at the TED conference in London November 2011.
DW – Dreamscapes | Euromaxx, German TV-show