An interview with Hans Strand by Beata Moore
Hans Strand is a Swedish photographer specializing in aerial photography, spectacular vistas, as well as more intimate landscapes. He lives and works near Stockholm, Sweden. After a nine year career in mechanical engineering he decided to become a full time landscape photographer. Hans travels all over the world to capture his images; he is famed for his work on the wilderness of Iceland and Arctic Countries but also on rainforests and deserts. Hans has a strong connection to nature and its details. Small elements of nature, so often overlooked by many, in his images take centre stage. He masterfully turns the surrounding natural chaos into a perfectly organised visual treats. Hans received several awards for his photography, among them Hasselblad Master 2008 and he has published many books. He also lectures on photography internationally.
1. What was your path to become a photographer?
I started very late in my life. I never had any plans of becoming a photographer when I was young. I educated myself to become an engineer. At the same time I graduated from university of technology in Stockholm in 1981, I bought my first camera, this at the age of 25. Almost at once, when looking through the viewfinder, I found a connection with the landscape in front of me. This connection is still there after 35 years. It took me 9 years of passionate hobby photography before I took the decisive step to become a full time professional landscape photographer in 1990. Looking in the rear mirror I must say that it was a lot easier to earn your income in 1990 than today. Internet has ruined the business for thousands of photographers. Clients are happy with the free or nearly free images they can get from internet and this strikes back on the photographers.
2. Do you prefer to take photos close to home or do you find faraway places more inspiring? Are there any special places that inspire you the most to create new work?
I have a strong believe that the best photographs are made close to your home. This since you have better knowledge of the place and can benefit from special weather conditions. I have a sacred swamp forest I visit several times per year and there I can observe how life is emerging and decaying. I find this very inspiring. As you know I have also a very special relation with Iceland. I have been there 26 times over 21 years and I hope I will be able to return as long as I able to make new photographs. It is such a fantastic place on earth.
3. Are you a meticulous pre-planer or do you prefer creating images spontaneously? Do you revisit your favourite places many times to achieve the required result? Can you tell us more about your method of working?
I plan a lot and then when it comes to the time for the shooting I often do something completely different from what I have planned. I find it interesting to study topographic maps and Google Earth before I go somewhere. I also tend to go to the same places over and over again, trying to squeeze out some new juice.
4. Terra Quantum displays themes and series portfolios; do you like working to the project/series/theme or find creating individual images more rewarding?
I always work on certain subject matters. It can be water, stone, trees etc. I find this more inspiring than hunting for sensational moments. With rising age I am no longer looking for spectacular sunsets. I find a day of good grey weather the best light for my kind of photography.
5. Can you tell us a bit more about your 2 chosen photographs – what is the story behind them, when/why/how they were created?
The first one is an aerial from Iceland. Shot from helicopter in June 2013. The light conditions were exceptional with diffused sunlight, resulting in images with very soft character and pastel colours. Another bonus was the patchy landscape, still partly covered with snow stained by volcanic ash. I have flown over the highlands maybe 15 times and never have I had this soft and at the same time dramatic light. The technical quality is also extraordinary, shot with a Hasselblad digital 50MP camera and maybe their best lens, the HC50mm II. This image can be printed 2 m wide and still be scrutinised from a half a meter distance.
The second image is the total opposite. A quiet landscape, where I actually have my soul. It was shot just 1 km from my home in the south of Stockholm. Almost every autumn there are a few days of dense mist. This shot was made on my Birthday November 29th 2009. Although it might look like a complete chaos. It was very carefully composed and if you spend some time analyse the image you will find the geometry and the backbone of the composition. Images like this one might be a bit hard to digest at first, but in the long run they will have a longer life than something which is just beautiful and powerful.
6. Colour, b&w or both? How do you decide about the elimination or inclusion of colour and why. When do you decide about it - in the field or during the post processing?
As I have said many times before, if it had not been for the sake of making my living out of landscape photography, I would have stuck to b&w. I find it so much more interesting than colour. I like the freedom in b&w. You can play around a lot with the contrast without making the photograph looking kitschy. If you do the same in colour it does not work. I also have a big problem with the green colour. I have never seen it coming out the way I see it with my eyes. Hopefully I can move more and more over to b&w since the interest for prints is increasing. The reason I have become a colour photographer is that I started making my business from stock photography through Getty and Corbis. Now the stock marked have dropped to infinite levels and I have been forced to find new outlets for my work.
7. Do you find printing your images yourself as an integral part of image creation or do you use professional labs? How important is the choice of paper for you?
I used to print b&w during the film days, but now I use a professional lab for all my printing. I always have control of the result though and the guy who is doing my prints knows exactly what I want. I simply don´t have space for a large printer in my small office.
8. Do you think that social media is killing photography or playing an important role in promoting your work? How involved are you in your online presence?
It is a mix of everything and it gives you an idea of the common taste, but at the same time it can be devastating for your own development as a photographer. Sadly the common taste is on a very naive level. The more colour and sensation, the more ”Likes” from the crowd. The good side of social media is that it has made photography every mans hobby. Never before have so many people been taking pictures. Hopefully the common taste will mature with time and allow more subjective kind of photography.
9. Do you have any plans for exhibitions, books or any interesting projects coming? Can you tell us a bit more about your artistic plans for the next couple of years?
I will have an exhibition next year on ”Chaos”. I am also currently working on several parallel book projects. The books will come out one by one as they materialise. I am also teaching workshops with my danish collegaue Better-Moments and this is running very well.
10. We are living on the most beautiful planet, yet it is over-burdened and over-polluted. As photography is an influential medium, do you use the power of your photographs to promote our Earth appreciation and environmental awareness? Any thoughts how photographers in general can become more involved in this important matter?
I try to do so during my talks. I have noticed how the ”ice rivers” on Iceland are decreasing and even drying out. This due to global warming. The glaciers in Europe are retracting with 50-100 meters per year and in 50 years from now we might not have any glaciers. I am also giving away lots of my work for free to organisations working with environmental issues.
See more on Hans Website