The Swedish couple making sense of the world through art
From Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunne, to Marina Abramovic and Ulay, collaborators bonded by love as well as creative understanding can be an especially powerful force. Swedish photography duo Inka and Niclas Lindergård prefer to make sense out of the world together, and – alongside raising two children and sustaining their own personal relationship – travel the world following their instincts and ideas. Here, in conversation, they share their magic formula for going out into nature and coming back with photos as magnificent as these.
Inka: What do you think is “Inka style” when you look back through your work?
Niclas: Your style? You like the images to be really clean. And I think the way we work with such grand types of scenery comes from you. You've always been pushing us to go places with big landscapes. What would you say was my biggest contribution to your overall style?
Inka: It may sound boring, but you're a very technical person. We started to work a lot with different kinds of materials that respond to our equipment and it's very nice for me that you're so into problem solving. For example if I have an idea, you can start to investigate the techniques around it and work out how it would be possible. Also, looking at camera techniques and stuff is kind of your guilty pleasure. Who would you say is the most patient when we’re putting a photograph together?
Niclas: You are patient in the way you are able to push us to keep going even though we’re tired. Or if I’m tired, you push me to do more. But I would say that when we are actually taking photographs, I'm probably the one who insists we stay for 20 or more exposures, or just one more try. What are three things you do when you start a new project?
Inka: Maybe we can do this one together. That was a tricky one...
Niclas: We Google a lot. We use a lot of Google image search.
Inka: We work with locations we find on Google. It's really great that nowadays if you look up a location, so much amateur photography comes with it. You can then use those to work out what a place is really like.
Niclas: Yeah, and imagine how it would look in a photograph.
Inka: We need to have some background information before we head somewhere, and it's really good to have a look at fantastic travel guides and that sort of thing, but it's also nice to just see regular shots, or even go on YouTube and watch tourists’ videos of places. Then you can see if you can actually access places by foot and that sort of thing.
Niclas: I would also say that either we need to be completely free of stress, or a little bit bored to start making good work.
Inka: But usually we have a deadline...
Niclas: so mostly we are super stressed...
Inka: Yes. We always seem to have an exhibition or public installation or something coming up. But sometimes it feels like we can be a bit relaxed in that stress also, because we're so used to having to push ourselves to do something and usually we manage.
Niclas: We've done it before.
Inka: We usually work it out. What do you think is the biggest benefit to being married and working together?
Niclas: The biggest benefits would be that we can share everything and that we have each other's understanding all the time.
Inka: I think it's good that now we're kind of starting to answer the questions together. Being married and working together is good because both of us are involved in all the details about it. Like the other one doesn't get bored of hearing about everything. I think, in a way, if you're married to someone who does something totally different, you can't be happy about the same small achievements together. The best kind of vacation for us is usually where we use it to do work. We like to mix everything up, to be free and do creative stuff. It always feels better for us to go to a nice bar afterwards if we did some good work before.
Niclas: What's the hardest thing about being married and working together?
Inka: I would say time. We have two kids together so it takes a lot of planning to be able to get our work done.
Niclas: Yeah, the logistics.
Inka: Do you remember how we began using nature in our work?
Niclas: Well, it started early. We started together and became a couple and wanted to do a project together. But we didn't know what we would do, or what the art would be like. We had a friend who has this really smart house out in a coffee field in Tanzania, and we went there with like 300 rolls of film and two cameras and just started working on every…
Inka: ...Idea that came to mind?
Inka: When we came home we looked at the work that we did on the safari trips, especially on this lunch break we had in the Ngorongoro Crater where we were just following humans who were interacting with nature. We started to see these patterns in how people were standing in formations. When we got home, I think both of us felt strongly that it was a project we wanted to continue working on.
Niclas: We started thinking about the expectations humans have of nature, and where those expectations come from.
Inka: We started traveling specifically to watch humans who have traveled to experience nature. From us sitting and waiting for tourists to come into these grand landscapes, watching the sunset for the hundredth time, we both started to both be fascinated by it ourselves.
Niclas: What's your favorite piece that we have created?
Inka: That's a tricky one. Sometimes it can be images that we worked hard to achieve. Like, in one way I would say that the pink wave we have is one of my favorites because we worked so long to get the right light conditions to color the water, but also we worked very hard on getting it sharp.
Niclas: It took almost two years to get it perfect.
Inka: We needed to find a setting where the water was pushed upwards instead of towards us to get everything to work. It took a while for us to even understand that was what we needed, let alone find that location. I remember we went to this remote island and had quite a clear idea of what we wanted to do, and when we got to the northernmost tip of the island, we realized that our flash was at home and our phones needed charging. We had to go and charge the phones at this fisherman’s cottage or something, and then had to go and buy a flash...everything was really complicated. And then when we finally went prepared and with a really clear idea, the wind came, and we managed to actually create what we wanted in one of the images. What has been the biggest achievement you had with your photography?
Niclas: I don't know really, I mean we've done two books that each took five years to create, and both of them won prizes. So that feels like a big achievement.
Inka: Especially the first one because back then we were just doing it on our own. Then we got the Swedish book award which felt like it was the first time a lot of people saw what we did behind the scenes.
Niclas: It’s also an achievement that we still like . And that we have been doing it together for, is it 12 years now?
Inka: I think we started in 2007.
Niclas: It kind of feels like we know who we are, in our work.
Inka: But I also like that we started to do more, like we've been interested in investigating how to present our photography in different ways. Like what we're doing with sculptures and installation. And I remember the first time we decided that the photograph would be printed on the frame. It felt like we were expanding, in a sense.
Niclas: Color has always been a huge part of our photography. Why is that?
Inka: The first time we began working with color was probably when we started to do investigations about the sunset.
Niclas: Yeah, the sunset photograph!
Inka: Taking the colors of the sunset and transferring them to other objects to see if we could kind of transfer the magic from the sunset to those. Color is a big part of our work. Sometimes we feel like we're really going to do something super strict and avoid the colors, and we usually come home with an even more vibrant, technicolor piece of work than ever.
Niclas: Yeah, it's getting more and more colorful.
Inka: I think it's part of us, even though we try to escape it sometimes. But that's nice. We like to be on the border of cliche and...fluorescent?
Niclas: But it's interesting when the fluorescent colors are totally over the top.
Inka: On the border of being over the top, at least.
Niclas: Like they're either really good, or totally horrible…
Inka: I think that's it.