Girls In Dusty Pink
Wasima has pink braids and is portrayed against a beige background. Warm and cool pink tones from the print is corresponding with the pink shade on the wall – showing the variation of one single colour. Evelina is showing her hairy armpit in a delicate setting where the sun is casting slight shadows and light against her body, contrasting a mild expression with rebellious undertones. Just a couple of weeks ago Frida Vega Salomonsson was one of the exhibiting artists in the ACNE x C-print exhibition at Area 52 in Stockholm. The title stated “You’ve got twenty shots, and each shot is a world”, to which Frida responded with four photographs in shades of pink, white and beige. Portraying people in her own circle of friends in a fastidious tonality of color characterizes her uncluttered aesthetic. As a photographer Frida juggles between commercial work and her own projects. On top of that, she’s a noted blogger and founder/curator of Paper Light Magazine. I met Frida in her shared studio south of Stockholm. Walls are covered with inspirational cutouts from magazines mixed with her own photography and drawings. You instantly get a feel of what Frida's aesthetic is about by looking at the wall – grainy pictures of girls, colour samples in a minimal tonality and drawings with simple and abstract shapes.
N.H: Why don't you start off by telling me about the photographs that were included in the ACNE x C-print exhibition?
F.V.S: They requested photographs with attitude, light and movement. We had been looking through some of my already existing work and ended up choosing from my body of work to date. I’ve always looked at my work as being very monochrome, mostly working in black and white. What I realized was that I’m pink. It was shocking to see all the pictures together and being confronted with how beige and pink I am.
N.H: How did that feel?
F.V.S: It was pleasant – I really want to be like that. More pink. Not a hot-Arvida-Bystöm-pink, but a dusty pink.
N.H: I love how you portray people. I remember when we were younger and all you would want was to have your picture taken by you, because you always looked so damn cool. Your portraits always look both personal and super rad. Most of the photos you take are of girls. Why is that?
F.V.S: I like girls a lot more than guys – in all sorts of ways. I believe that girls are more interesting than guys. Central for my practice is that I only photograph people that interest me. More often it will be a girl or a friend of mine.
N.H: I think it’s interesting that most of your photos are of girls without objectifying them at all. Generally, more traditional photographs of girls has a “male gaze” about them. What do you think about the sexualization that often comes with women in photography?
F.V.S: I think there is something different in being a woman rather than a man, taking pictures of women, in so far that I identify with the girls I shoot. I feel that the people I take pictures of are inspirational. I have an interest in whom I photograph and they often are my friends. For me they are always something more than just a beautiful face. I think that shines through. I always try to work with undertones of feminism in my practice because it is such an important issue for me. Generally, I’m not interested in portraying perfect but rather to include details that are unrefined. I think this interferes with the male gaze.
N.H: Your photography is used in a wide range of forums. You have your blog, your more commercial work and the photos that are placed in a context of art. Do you feel that context is decisive in terms of what photographs you choose to show where, and do you distinguish the branches of your practice from each other?
F.V.S: For me, everything is really sliding together. For example, I took the picture of Evelina in the room next door when she was visiting. That’s usually the way I work. I’ve always photographed people I know personally, I think that it is so much more exciting than taking pictures of real models. Often I find people on Instagam who have some feature or style that interests me. Whether it is someone I know well or not, I just like to just hang out, drink coffee and talk while taking some pictures. My practice has always been documentary. I like to always have my camera with me and then look for things in people around me and for different compositions to shoot. I prefer that to a white studio. I’m not a person that visualizes a set and then arranges it.
N.H: It is more something that is supposed to come to you rather than being arranged?
N.H: For me, you have always been the one with the camera. You were taking pictures of everything that we did. Do you think your interest in a more documentary type of photography is related to the fact that you’re a blogger?
F.V.S: I got my first camera when I was 12 years old but when I started my blog I began photographing more frequently and seriously. At the time, when I had just started high school, I always carried my camera around. I mostly shot the group of kids that I hung out with. I think that was when I realized that I enjoy a more documentary style in pictures. If you want images of people who not are models it is better to take pictures of them in an environment that they are comfortable in rather than asking them to pose in a sterile set. I think I have at least a thousand pictures taken of you in the smoking area of the school. If people have something to do, something to look at or someone to talk to, they become more relaxed and I get a better picture.
N.H: So the blog has been important for sparking your interest in photography?
F.V.S: I think the blog has been like a creative tool for me not to stop taking pictures. Even if you have an interest in photography it’s not without effort that you drag your camera around. It’s actually really heavy. The blog became an incentive to take the camera with me everyday because there was a purpose with it. Otherwise, I think it would sometimes become too abstract. For me, the blog became the outlet, where I was posting my pictures knowing that they would be looked at. Nowadays, there’s less time for the blog because of my other projects, initiated by me or commissioned by others. But it has formed the way I work a lot.
N.H: In what way?
F.V.S: I was assigned my first jobs through it and it has worked as kind of a portfolio for me. But rather than seeing just a portfolio, I think people have favored the way I tell a story in images. I work a lot with series, and like to take a lot of pictures. I think the way our generation works, with blogs and social media, affects the way you take photos. In comparison with an older generation that looked for the shot, I rather meditate in some kind of blog mentality – where you narrate a sequence of events in a sequence of pictures. I think that has affected the way I work a lot.
N.H: I’m thinking about the platform that the blog became for you – since you got your first commissions through it and it gained you recognition. Today you also use Instagram a lot and you are probably the best Instagrammer I know. I feel that Instagram is becoming a more important tool for artists, and also that it is getting more consciously used and curated.What are your thoughts on Instagram as a part of your practice?
F.V.S: Today I prefer Instagram to the blog format. For me, my whole Instagram account is a series of images in itself. I arrange my feed entirely; in single images but I find the flow of images the most attractive element of the feed. I think people experiment and use the platform in different ways. Maybe Instagram is not very instant, at least not mine.
N.H: The entire community around the internet and social media has been so important for our generation. I would say that many people more or less live and work through the internet.
F.V.S: I would not have been doing what I am if it weren’t for the internet. I think everything that I’ve done somehow has emerged from my blog and also I find a lot of my inspiration on Instagram. Again I’m often intrigued by how people look and often I find and get in touch with them via Instagram.
N.H: You started off really on your own. But lately you have also been involved with both Arrivals Art and ACNE Photography. You could say that working with a gallery or agency is more connected to an older tradition. With the internet you have built your career really independently, something that maybe would not even have been possible twenty years ago. How do you feel about being connected to more traditional ways of working as an artist in comparison to having been able to work in detached fashion from external parties?
F.V.S: I like the way that I have been working on my own. I also like that my persona has become very strongly connected to what I do. In the more traditional role as a photographer, you take all sorts of commissions and are kind of anonymous in the picture. In art it is different of course, and maybe that is why my photography is transitional from commercial to art. I like that I have built a persona and aesthetic that is recognizable. And also that I get my jobs because of that. The traditional way of working your way up as a photographer is really hierarchical. You are supposed to have gone through photography school, and assisting a senior photographer before building a portfolio and starting to work. I came in to the business more from the side and probably many think I do not deserve to have an agency because I haven’t been through all those predetermined steps. ACNE has been really good with understanding what I want to do and what I don’t want to do.
N.H: Do you think the way you have been working will be more common and that the traditional way of working is on it is way out? I am also thinking about the new technology making it easier for people to take crisp images, without money or formal training.
F.V.S: Of course it is changing, even though the traditional way of working still influences the industry very much. We are also a generation that has a lot more knowledge about visual communication. With Instagram people are more aware of how to take a good picture. And also the threshold for taking an okay image today is much lower. But I do not care much for crisp images, HD and pixels. Colour and shape are much more important to me. I have no problems with pictures being a bit grainy. Today it is so easy to get things crisp and therefore there is nothing arousing about it. I get the fascination for it a few years ago, when you would have a three-megapixel camera. Rather it has started to be about your own imagery and reaching out with what you do. But I think all industries are going through this transformation.
I do love this thing about Instagram and mobile photography. Most people have a phone and in that sense it’s kind of democratic. It could become a tool to find your own idiom.You do not have to invest so much to be able to take photos, especially if you compare it to analogue photography which is expensive. This makes it possible to exercise an aesthetic in a totally different way. Today you can take hundreds of pictures a day.
N.H: So how do you want your pictures to feel?
F.V.S: At the moment I’m really into pink tones. A good picture to me feels spontaneous and intended at the same time.
Frida Vega Salomonsson's work is represented by Acne Photography: