Behind the Lens With David Bjorken
Meet David Björkén:
I was born in Sweden in 1970 and I currently work as a graphic designer and freelancing photographer in the advertising market and with OPUS magazine, Scandinavia's largest magazine about classical music. I also do some landscape and portrait photography.
I mainly use a Canon EOS 5D MkII. My favorite lenses are the EF 70-200 f/2.8L and 135 f/2.0L but I also often use wide angles.
Teachers and/or influences?
I think my main influences were classical street photographers such as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Elliot Erwitt, and legendary Swedish photographer Christer Strömholm. I also admire the work of photographers as Irving Penn, Herman Leonard and Guy Le Querrec. Czech photographer Josef Koudelka is also a big influence.
I knew I wanted to be a photographer when...
I did not really want to be a photographer, I set out to become a doctor and studied medicine before I changed to graphic design and photography because I ran out of money. But I have always been interested in photography and fascinated by the classic feeling of jazz photography of the '50s and '60s.
Your approach to photography:
I try to make the image "sound"; it should feel jazzy, in that way that I recognize the situation. In that respect I am not a mere collector of artist images, I try to give my interpretation of it and therefore I try to use expressions, the light settings and so on to make a composition.
Nowadays I think more during concerts than some years ago and I think it reflects some evolvement in my photography and I think it's one of the great challenges of all photography.
If I may say something about technicalities it is to learn how much light you need and which shutter speeds that is necessary. Sometimes the depth of field could be very narrow on the biggest f-stop, so I use to go down a bit to around f/3.5-4 if it's possible and tries to put focus in the eye of the object.
Your teaching approach/philosophy:
As with all photography it is trying to see other aspects of the picture than just the artists. Legendary Swedish photographer Christer Strömholm once wrote, "Do not let the subject obscure the picture," and I think it's one of the philosophies that are generally useful for most of photography.
Your biggest challenge when shooting indoor (or low lighted) events:
Low light conditions could be hard although modern equipment handles high ISO settings very good so the biggest challenge (as always) is to try to create interesting images and it's hard to say anything general because it depends on the situation, the artist, light and so on.
Your biggest challenge when shooting outdoor events:
To find interesting light. The light settings on outdoor scenes are often (but not always) quite boring. I associate outdoor shooting with large stages and you often have a great distance to the artists and on larger festivals such as Stockholm jazz it could be quite crowded of photographers in front of the stage. And photographers are like sheep, so one piece of advice could be: do not be a sheep, take a step back and look at the whole stage.
Favorite venue to shoot:
I like to shoot in small clubs and halls. The small hall in Kulturens Hus (the house of culture) in the town of Luleå, Sweden is great for shooting.
Favorite festival to shoot:
Umeå Jazz Festival, a small jazz festival in northern Sweden. An intimate festival with both small local unknown acts as well as world artists. Montreux Jazz because of the long traditions and the wonderful surroundings with snowy Alps and the beautiful Lake Geneva. I also like the jazz festivals in Copenhagen and Stockholm.
Where was your first assignment location?
It was in 1993. A small concert at a local jazz club in Umeå, Sweden. I used Tri-x film and the negatives became quite dense and dark with a lot of motion blur.
Did you know...
I won the Swedish national freestyle tour in mogul skiing in 1989 and skiing and outdoor activities are still a big joy.
Your favorite jazz story:
I worked as a volunteer at Umeå Jazz Festival in 1994 and met Elvin Jones. Unfortunately without camera, but it felt awesome to meet a legend like him as a quite young student in a small town in northern Sweden.