Thron Ullberg is one of Swedens most recognized portrait-photographers and known for shooting pictures of both well-known and unknown faces.
Name: Thron Ullberg
Year of birth: 1969
Based in: Stockholm
Where are you right now and what was the last thing you did before we started this interview?
I just had lunch and at the moment I’m finishing editing 2-3 jobs while I’m planning two new. All which must be done by Christmas. It’s been a really good year for me..hands full each month..but that’s how I like it.
Please give us an insight into your background! Who is Thron Ullberg and where is he from?
I’m born and raised at a little place called Øvertorneå in Northern part of Sweden. In 1976 I moved to Karlstad. I started to take my first pictures when I was fifteen with my fathers camera who died when I was seven. The interest began with me looking at old pictures which he had taken of him and his friends. I started shooting with a Zenit 35mm, which I constantly experienced with. In my first year at high school I curated many exhibitions, through that I saved enough money to purchase a Mamyua 120 mm. I studied History of art and Aesthetics at Uppsala University for five years, interrupted my studies for one year, while I worked as an assistant for an advertising photographer, but I soon realized that it wasn´t for me. When I finished my studies at Uppsala I moved to Stockholm where my plan was to dedicate myself in photography in my own way. I worked day and night shooting for magazines and advertising agencies. You can say that hard work pays off, but I´m still struggling…
Jonas Gardell Author
Can you walk us through the actual process that you use to set up a portraitshoot?
I get to know the details of the project two weeks before.
From there on I start the process with ideas around the people I’m portraying. Actors and musicians are very «free» if you can say so. Pictures of an author become very personal. Things become very emotional if the photo are going to be in the book of the author.
The ideas pops up unconsciously since I follow the culture in Sweden closely. When I know which person to photograph these things come automaticcaly.
I’m very eager to push my self in new directions and try something new and different. In addition to that I always take a «safe picture».
Usually its only me and my assistant who organize everything within the shoot. Location, equipment, retouching and all that stuff. When I do bigger shoots I of course need a bigger team for assistance.
Noomi Rapace 2010 Actor
Analog vs Digital ?
I really love the darkroom and analog film and all the pictures you see which are S/H and shot with a 4×5 Linhof ( Fomapan ). It’s a bit more stress and work working with film, but you can get a hell of a result if you do it the right way. At the same time you get more picky and need a higher level of concentration since you only got a set number of photos available.
In the digital world I shoot everything in color with a Canon camera. The photos gets really good and if you have a super retoucher the results often turns out amazing.
Me and my assistant Fredrik Persoon do everything in-house.
Location and weather conditions seem to be a crucial aspect to a successful picture. How do you handle these unpredictable factors?
- I always take time to prepare for the weather conditions. I always bring umbrellas and think of all the different aspects. I prepare that I might have to shoot with natural light. Anyway I’m quite used to bad weather so you need to be flexible, at the same time I might happily sacrifice the equipment to get the perfect picture.
Anna Törnqvist Artist
What makes the good picture stand out from the average ones?
Oh, it can be so much. A look/glance, a picture that doesn’t look like anything I’ve done before. Sometimes I find old pictures and think “Shit, did I take that picture?”
Tuva Novotny Actor
What do you think about the future of photography, with all the new technology?
That’s a good thing. It’s all about doing it right or not do it at all. I’m now on Facebook but I only see it as work related thing. I want everything to have a deliberate though behind it. I think its great for the youth of today that they can take pictures via Instagram so they can experiment and play around. I don’t do Instagram because I don’t have the time do it properly. Less is more.
Jens Lapidus Author
Tell me about your book projects and their significance?
It’s very important for a photographer to make books. Exhibitions need a lot of work and often they can turn out amazing but books last for ever. Personal I love photo-books and to see what other people do. I’ve produced two books and the third one is on the way. The book is named «Celina and me» and it starts with a self-portrait from 1995. Through the years I’ve shot pictures of me and my daughter with 4×5 big format B/W. This project is now an exhibition in Karlstad at Lars Lerin Galleri. I chose all the pictures, how it should be printed and all the other stuff so for me it’s very personal.
Ingvar Hirdvall Actor
What can you recommend other up and coming photographers in terms of self-marketing? What should they do to get attention for their work?
- I think the first thing you should do is to go to a school of photography to learn the basics and work as an assistant so you can experience the pluses and minuses. BUT, the most important thing is to experiment. A LOT. Try new things, play and by all means have fun!! I still get inspired by stuff I did 20 years ago. I believe social medias are important for young photographers but they must remember to not publish things to quickly. Rather work with the expression and be sure that is good enough before publishing it online. Have a plan and be selective even on Instagram.
Karl-Ove knausgård Author
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
- From other photographers, films, books etc. It could be any time anywhere. I could be out driving around or it could be just before I fell asleep. Sally Mann is probably the most inspiring person I’ve met and I actually photographer her a couple years ago. She was incredibly nice and it was the first time she had been photographer with a 4×5 camera.
Ivo 2009 Son
What are the 5 most important items you always pack besides camera gear, when working on a shoot?
Umbrella in case of rain
Celina 2013 Daughter
You shoot a lot of well known personalities such as writers, musicians and even the King. Do you have a special fascination for these people and how is the difference between photographing famous vs non-famous?
I’m very laid-back when it comes to who I photograph. I don’t get starstruck of celebrities, it is just more problems with restrictions, time-pressure and with their agent standing behind my back. When I was a kid I found by Arnold Newman and I was very fascinated by the people and immediately wanted to find out who these people were. All the pictures in the book was of known writers, musicians and other known persons. With this I mean that I’m more interested in the human than in the status, I want to come closer to people and see the similarities and differences .
Sofie Oksanen Author
Three people you would love to work with:
Max von Sydow (swedish actor), Bill Viola(american artist), David Sylvian(english musician).
Salem Al Fakir 2007 Musician
Who do you think is one to watch?
Rebecca Cairns, a Canadian photographer. A combination between Francesca Woodman and Sally Mann.
People around me, artists who never stop and still struggle, photographers like Sally Mann among others.
Michael Nykvist Actor
What is the toughest thing you will do this year, photography-wise?
I hope it’s behind me. As I stated earlier; during 2013 I made a big solo exhibition and produced a book called “Celina and Me” with help from my friend Guillermo Allende. I think that’s tougher than anything I’ll do this year.
Celina 2007 Daughter