• photography by STEPHANIE CETINA

    An Interview with Ellen Sundberg

    Written by Marie Brunnberg

    Ellen is ready for the next harbour


    23 years old, she released her third album “Cigarette Secrets” and she is already talking about producing a fourth.

    – I hope it will not be too long before I release a new album. I'm in a very productive period right now.


    But first, Ellen Sundberg want to spread her songs from “Cigarette Secrets” abroad. She guesses that Germany becomes the first country to launch her new album in.

    - It looks like it will be an intense tour next year, she says.


    I meet her when she has just completed a short tour in the south of Sweden. She is a bit disappointed about that she had to cancel two gigs, because of her cold. She says that it´s the disadvantage of being a musician - that she is dependent on her voice.


    Do you enjoy being on stage?

    Yes, but it takes quite a while to get into it. It´s only when you start playing for real as the music gets into your muscles.

    When I was on my first tour for about three and a half years ago, I was very worried. How will this go? I thought. I´m a person who likes to be home in the country. I usually get stressed by meeting crowds of people, but when I came out on the roads it felt so right. I need the contrasts, I think.


    Now she longs to come home, charge her batteries and start writing. Ellen wrote her first song when she was around seventeen years old, and from that day she does everything on her own.

    – The best part of writing your own lyrics is that you can use your imagination freely. I can do whatever I want, she says. No one interferes you.


    From where comes your inspiration?

    Usually from my life and what has happened in the last year. My experiences need to grow for a while before I write them down. The lyrics are often inspired by a specific happening, but I love to fantasize so my songs contain a lot of imagination.


    Your albums have different sounds. Why?

    On the latest album “Cigarette Secrets” I had an idea about producing a more straight and accessible album. I was curious about how it would sound like. I also got a new producer: Sanken Sandqvist. He has produced a lot of music in that niche. He is also Managing Director at BMG Scandinavia.


    What song on the new album do you like the most?

    I like “I´ll be your Harbour”. I have a special feeling about that song. I can´t explain why.

    Favorite town” is the listener´s favorite. But “Blame it on the dreamer” becomes more and more popular on Spotify.


    How will your fourth album be like?

    Once more, I want to record a different album from the earlier ones. But I still want to make a direct and available album for a wider audience. Maybe I will use more traditional instruments, but in a simple manner. I like the sound when your not to good playing a specific instrument. It feels very alive.


    It seems like Ellen is a little ambivalent about her singing style. She is the girl from the country who loves singing Americana and at the same time she is eager to learn and try new things - she is experimenting a lot. She also likes challenges. For example, you can see a video on YouTube where she sings Televisions “Marquee Moon”. It´s fantastic.


    How did this Television cover version idea arise?

    It´s all about contacts in this business. My producer Sanken Sandqvist and Richard Lloyd, who was the guitarist in Television, are friends. Richard was going to add some guitar in some of my songs and the day before we should meet him in New York, my producer asked if we could record a Television cover. So, I listened through some of their songs and I fell for “Marquee Moon”.

    I barely remembered the text and it all happened very fast. I think it took less than one hour.


    It´s apparent that Ellen is from the country. This young woman expresses the independence and humility you often get when you grow up in a smaller place. She describes the nature around her village Bjärme in the middle of Sweden, where she lives. She smiles when she talks about the woods, mountains and the big lake she has around the corner. It´s in this surroundings she write her songs.

    – I think that nature has shaped my personality very much, she says. People ask if I will move to Stockholm, but I like Bjärme. And it´s not that far from Stockholm.


    So now, on your trip back home, what music are you listening to in the bus?

    I will listen to a band I have never heard before; Little May. I´m not usually listening to new music so I´m very euphoric about that I have been discovering them.

  • An Interview with Pieter Ten Hoopen

    Written by Marie Brunnberg

    Although Pieter Ten Hoopen is a photographer, he is surprisingly not really interested in photography. It´s storytelling, he really cares about. 

    –  I enjoy being with people for a longer time. For me, it's very much about the story - the camera is just a tool or a technical thing to be mastered. It's the same with film - it´s the narrative form that I am interested in.

    He loves to travel around the world meeting people from various places. Pieter Ten Hoopens latest documentary work is a photo reportage when he was moving around visiting small villages in India. You can see his work at the Swedish Museum of photography Fotografiska in Stockholm until December 11, 2016.

    This current exhibition Spirit for Change is a collaboration project between the NGO organisation Hand in Hand and Fotografiska.

    Hand in Hand helps poor people, mostly women, to start their own business with micro loans. In over two weeks Pieter has been following the new entrepreneurs, mostly women, in their ordinary lives. The result ended up with twenty images.

    – There's very few images, but it is enough to give a picture of a society, says Pieter. 

    M: How would you describe “Spirit for Change”?

    P: It´s a glimpse of an everyday situation As you may land a short time in an Indian community in a small Indian village.

    M: Are you good at socializing with people from different cultures?

    P: Yes, I think so. I have been working in fifteen countries since January and it requires that you like talking with people if you are going to collaborate with them. I have worked a lot in Africa, Asia and the United States. All countries have different codes and traditions.

    M: How did this project start?

    P: Hand in Hand asked me and I think it was a proposal from Fotografiska who recommended me to do this project. At first I had a meeting with Hand in Hand to learn more about their organisation. Then I came up with some ideas how we could do this. It´s not easy because I come from a 100 percent documentary background and I am really obliged the documentary tradition I´m working in. Hand in Hand wanted to highlight some way of change. It´s hard to present change in a photo reportage so my question was to them: “What change are we talking about?” Maybe we can show some kind of pride or some form of daily life that are representative for these particular villages in India?

    The images in the NGO-world is changing. Before, it was the thumbs up and a smile on the face of happy children who have been helped, but it doesn´t work anymore. Today we have an audience that is more critical and if you want to invite them to your organization, it requires a smarter way of thinking. That´s why this whole exhibition is a solid journalistic work on a documentary tradition.

    M: Are there just positive images?

    P: It´s a mix. An image can be seen in different ways. We all have unique preferences when we look at photos. In this exhibition there are pictures who are emotional. For example, there is an image of a sick woman being comforted by her doctor. He puts his hand on her head and he does it with empathy and compassion because she is alone, without her kids, longing for them. It´s a real life situation.

    M: Is there anyone who don´t like being photographed? Or feel objectified?

    P: No, I don´t think they do. They're proud and happy people. They do not seem to care at all. But, if they care, it shows. Sometimes people get really angry. Last week when I was working in Sicily and I walked across the street and there was a woman who got completely mad when I was photographing. When I cross a street in a public place I have the right to photograph there, but you get all kinds of reaction and you need to accept that as a photographer. There are usually no problems If you explain why you are taking photos.

    M: Were you living with the people you met?

    P: I wanted to stay in one village that I thought had great potential to tell great stories from, but Hand in Hand didn´t want me to do that. I think they were afraid that I would get sick from the food or something - I don´t know. They have rules they need to follow. I respect that, even if I had been doing this for twenty years. I am familiar with these situations.

    M: Have all in your story their own enterprises?

    P: No, some of the people are more like a part of the story. But I have concrete portraits of women who got a micro loan to start their own small business. Someone bought a cow to sell milk to support her family. Another bought a sewing machine to earn money on that.

    M: Do you have any enjoyable memory from the trip?

    P: Many of the citizens in these villages are not accustomed to tourists or foreigners. They think it's super exciting with a pink gentleman who sweat copiously and running around with a camera. You became an attraction. I´m big as a house for them and I have a lot of tattoos so I believe they think it´s odd.

    M: Was there anyone who was curious of the camera?

    P: Sometimes you have to tell them to calm down a bit. My assistant helped me so that I could devote myself to work. But this is the way it is in India, especially South India. There are a lot of  isolated villages that barely have electricity and they do not know much about what happens in the world outside these villages and get curious.

    M: Are you going back to India?

    P: No, I´m not going back. And what to do now, I don´t know. I have had a long tour of productions so now it becomes a little more quiet period for me. I will start sketching again. I have many own ideas about what I want to do, which I then want to seek funding for in various ways. I also want to publish a book, but also there, I´m in the research stage right now. I think there will be some travelling for me the near future to search interesting environment for the book. I think it would be a book without people.

    M: Are you getting tired of people?

    P: No, I love being with people. But I have done so many books and there are people in all of them. The latest book I did I was working in the same community for ten years. I have a need to take a break and do something else - for example, a book without people to later cope with other projects. You need to be sharp when you work with people and many times it can get really intense.

    M: Why did you become a documentary photographer?

    P: It didn´t decide to be a photographer. It was something that grew with time. I started to study photojournalism and then I noticed that I liked storytelling better than working as a press photographer.

  • An Interview with Kuta Takashima

    Written by Marie Brunnberg

    Translated from Japanese by Lora Maslenitsyna

    I don’t create for anybody but me; this it is something I must do”.
    The Tokyo artist Kuta Takashima started taking pictures when he was a young adult. In the beginning photography was mostly a way to expose forms, shapes and feelings of the world and he explains that he never really studied photography. Fast forward eight years, he was recently won the“2016 New Cosmos of Photography Tokyo Exhibition Excellence Award”.

    Tell us a little about your background? Family?
    Both of my parents and my uncle are artists. My uncle is a painter, musician and a writer, I really respect his writing. It has greatly stimulated and affected my perspective on life.

    Can you tell us about the world you and we are looking at in your pictures?
    I don’t feel I know the world that surrounds me. I’m not always able to understand it. However, through the world in my pictures I feel a certain sense of security, something close to nostalgia.

    Is it dreaming or reality? Past or future? Is it your world or our world?
    It might be a dream, future or past. It could be anything.
    There are many possibilities, I prefer when others tell me what they see and feel.

    The people in your artwork who give you that eerie feeling - who are they?
    Some people think my work is spooky, and it always surprises me.
    I always listen eagerly to their explanation of why they feel this way.
    I’m excited because I think it’s a lovely thing to feel.
    What is Zawatsuki?
    By removing titles, my works become more open to individual interpretations.
    I used the Japanese word zawatsuki more as an all-inclusive description.
    (zawatsuki means noise, disturbance, literally as well as in a poetic sense [ed. note]).
    Now time has passed and just like this year is coming to an end so is zawatsuki.
    Next exhibition will be something new and I don’t want to categorize it.

    Can you describe your work process? Do you have any special routines?
    I don’t have a routine for how I work, I try to clear my head to the best of my ability.
    I try to be like a newborn, the highest state of purity.
    Even so, I think it is important to realize that my persona and ideas may have changed over time, for good reasons.

    How do you think you can develop as an artist further?
    With my own way of thinking and my artistic purity increases.
    I don’t want to change the way I create photography work but,
    instead I consider various filters or techniques to make my thoughts appear clearer in the art works.

    I don’t create for anybody but me; this is something I must do. My goal is to exceed and surprise others and myself.
    What inspires you right now?
    I always feel stimulated. My projects are always changing and they will never be completed.

    Can you mention one of your favorite Japanese contemporary artists?
    At the moment, I don’t have any favorite contemporary Japanese artists.
    My favorite artists are neither contemporary nor Japanese.
    But I would like to name two artists: Leonard Foujita and Zujizuwafu-Bekushinsuki.
    They have an individual and cool way of thinking.
    They create a relationship of uncertainty and I’m always very anxious when I see their work.

    You live in Tokyo - what do you like about that city? Dislike?
    Tokyo is my favorite city. This is where I was born and grew up.
    Everyday life together with the constant impact of people who I meet and connect with has made me see Tokyo as one living being.
    I’m both happy and thankful that I feel this way.

    What are your plans for the future?
    I’m here on this planet right now and there is no way for me to predict the future.
    I can only say what I think “now” is. Therefore, I have no idea about tomorrow.
    Before I used to be very conscious of the fact that there is tomorrow and a past but I have stopped thinking that way.
    I waste no time thinking of tomorrow and I have also removed hatred from my thoughts.

    That being said - please look forward to the future!

    Kuta Takashima is the winner of the 2016 New Cosmos of Photography Tokyo Exhibition Excellence Award.

    photography by JÖRGEN AXELVALL