Welcome to the surreal world of Tommy Ingberg where photography and art merge.
I discovered Tommy Ingberg’s amazing images by chance, and they left such a strong impression on me that I wanted to see and know more. In the interview we did, the Swedish photographer talks about his journey of becoming a photographer, what message he wants to send through his work and where he finds inspiration.
How did you first get interested in photography?
When I was 15 years old I got my first “real” camera, a Praktica with two lenses. It had no autofocus and the metering didn’t work. I spent endless hours experimenting and shooting as much film as I could afford. It was then that I really decided that I wanted to do photography. I needed a way to express myself, and instead of playing in a band, painting or writing – I chose photography. What followed were several years of intensive photography, but it was when I was able to afford my first digital camera that I really started to develop. Thanks to the fact that I could see the result directly in the camera, the whole process of trial and error was speeded up tremendously.
Since then I’ve tried several areas of photography; portraits, concert photography, street photography, nature photography and everything in-between. I can’t tell you why I chose photography, but there is something about it that really speaks to me. Even nowadays I can still feel that excitement when I know that I just captured a great picture. It’s often when something unexpected happens in front of the camera. No matter how well you plan your shoots, there is still an element of chance involved, and I love that about photography.
How would you describe your photographs?
With my surrealistic work I am trying to explain something abstract, like a feeling or a thought, expressing the subconscious with a picture. For my work I use my own inner life, thoughts and feelings as seeds to my pictures. In that sense the work is very personal, almost like a visual diary. Despite this suggestiveness in the process I hope that the work can engage the viewer in her or his own terms. I want the viewers to produce their own questions and answers when looking at the pictures. My own interpretations are really irrelevant in this context.
I try to make simple, scaled back compositions with few elements, where every part adds to the story. By making them devoid of any distractions, like elaborate backdrops or figures in the foreground, I also try to achieve a kind of dreamlike silence. Sometimes less is more, and for me one of the most interesting challenges of creating this kind of work is to try to find a simple, but yet ambiguous visual representation of something very complex.
How important are Photoshop and retouching in your work?
I always try to do as much work as possible in camera. Well planned and photographed source pictures are a much better option than doing excessive work in Photoshop. In my opinion camera work will always have better quality and look better than something put together in Photoshop. If you do the photography really well you could technically just print your pictures, cut out the parts you want and paste them onto an empty piece of paper and be done with it. This is of course not possible, but I find it to be a good reference to have in mind when planning my composites. In reality, I would say that I spend an equal amount of time behind the camera as in front of the computer. Still, I can sometimes fiddle with the finishing touches in Photoshop for hours.
What inspires you?
That varies. I read a lot and watch lots of movies and find inspiration in that. My main source of inspiration though is music; I always listen to music and could really not imagine life without it. Despite movies, music, books and other external sources of inspiration I still feel that I need inspiration from inside myself, my life and my experiences. I need to have something to say that comes from within, otherwise there is no real point in creating. I would just be re-telling someone else’s story creating meaningless, empty imagery.
Your favourite piece of equipment you can’t live without?
Personally, I don’t really pay much attention to the technology and equipment part of photography. I only buy equipment that I really need and that somehow improves my work. I have a camera with fast autofocus and sharp lenses that produce big files in good quality, a pair of good studio flash heads that give me even controllable light and a fast computer with lots of storage space, and that’s really all that I need.
Do you think that a picture is worth a 1000 words?
Yes, or rather if you show 1000 different people a picture you’ll get 1000 different interpretations and reactions. A picture can be many different things, and the meaning exists in the dialog with the viewer.
Who is your favourite photographer and why do you find her/his work to be so special?
During my years of photographing and trying to find my own voice I have tried almost every kind of photography, and I’ve been influenced by many different photographers. Just to name a few: Henri Cartier-Bresson, Diane Arbus, David LaChapelle and Anton Corbijn. But, there are really too many to name. I have consumed a lot of photography trough the years. What inspires me about all these great photographers is their ability to capture an expression. It’s kind of a vague term, but I don’t know how to put it in words. There is something about great photography that evokes an emotional response in me that I don’t often get from other types of visual art. My work nowadays is more related to painting than traditional photography, but it’s still in terms of source material 100% photographic, and I try to incorporate that unique characteristic of photography into my work.
If you could photograph any person, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Doing a portrait of Salvador Dalí would be fun, I think.
The moment in your career so far that you are most proud of?
I still feel like this is something I do mainly for myself because I love doing it. And every time I set out to create a new picture it’s really exciting to see how the idea develops into a finished piece. In those moments I feel a bit proud, when I look at something I’ve just created out of nothing but an idea.