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Opinion and Insight

Up-and-Coming Nordic DOPs You’ll Want to Keep an Eye On

Get to know these four fresh cinematographers from across Scandinavia

Up-and-Coming Nordic DOPs You’ll Want to Keep an Eye On

With its alpine tundra climate, beautiful mountain ranges, magical lights and lush forests, it’s safe to say that Scandies have a lot to work with when it comes to setting a scene. No wonder then that the region births some of the most keen-eyed cinematographers in commercial, feature film and music videos. 

LBB’s Liam Smith did some digging and unearthed some young, up-and-coming DOPs that you should definitely keep on your radar. 


Josephine Owe - Sweden

LBB> How would you describe yourself and your work?

JO> Three years ago, I decided to make the transition from camera assistant to DP, and I have loved it from day one. I think it suits me well because I’m a social person and I like working with different directors and crew. I do all kinds of work: commercial, narrative, music videos and documentaries. I often work with natural light or with light sources that are naturally present (depending on the location and scene). I have a thing for handheld cameras. My dream is to shoot some cool features.

LBB> Nordic advertising has seen a shift away from a quirky kind of comedy to a more moody, visual, semi-documentary style. Would you agree with this statement? 

JO> Yes, I definitely agree. I love that kind of work. The cinematography looks simple but it actually requires more work before the shoot with light studies etc. You can often work in a small team and do run and guns, which is kind of fun, and you get a lot of material. But, because it has been a trend for a while now, I sometimes think that you choose that way because it’s the easy choice and not always because it’s the best choice for the story. So I’m kind of looking forward to a shift towards a new trend. Maybe every director and producer wants to do it old school again, shoot on 35mm and on 16mm. I know I do!


LBB> What makes producing and shooting in your country so exciting right now?

JO> The crew and the light. Since it’s getting colder now, the light is gorgeous in the early mornings. You get that magic mist over the seas and meadows. I know we’ve seen it a hundred times before, but I’m never going to get tired of how beautiful and how different the landscape can be from the north to the south. Also, most production companies and agencies are becoming more diverse. There are a lot more female directors and DPs fighting for jobs now, compared to how it was a couple of years ago, which is very exciting.


LBB> What piece of work are you most proud of and why? 

JO> I’m working on a documentary, JUCK. It’s about a feminist dance collective from Sweden. We have been shooting it over the course of a year. It’s hard to keep that sort of work together, both story-wise and in cinematography. There have been a lot of creative talks between me and the director Olivia Kastebring and I think the piece will portray the women in the film and their work in a ‘fresh’ way.

And also MONKI, a commercial for a Swedish chain of clothes stores. We worked on a really tight budget and we wanted the colours in both set design and costume to look awesome and also to have a playful look. So, the director Daniel Eskils and I decided to shoot on 35mm, 250 Daylight and it really came out with the right look that we wanted.

LBB> Are there any aspects of cinematography that you wish people understood better or appreciated more?

JO> It always comes down to time. It takes time to make that perfect picture, with light, set design, actors etc. I love obsessing over the small things until I run out of time. It could be moving that small lamp 10 centimetres to get the right feeling. And also to have the time to improvise on set. ‘Cause that’s when you get the best bits and energy.


LBB> What are some recent examples of great cinematography from your region? 

JO> I saw Dunkirk on 70mm a couple of weeks ago, shot by Hoyte van Hoytema. Magical cinematography!


Jacob Møller - Denmark

LBB> How would you describe yourself and your work?

JM> Being a DP is so much about the relationship with your director. About sharing tastes and ideas. The best films are made when you can relate and feel that you have something to give to the project. I always try to be curious with the camera, I like it when you can let the camera explore a scene.  



LBB> Nordic advertising has seen a shift away from a quirky kind of comedy to a more moody, visual, semi-documentary style. Would you agree with this statement? 

JM> Yes definitely, especially in Sweden. They seemed to be the front runners on that style. Most of the interesting jobs I get come out of there. 

I like that style of commercials, where you have quite a lot of freedom. And with emotion and aesthetic as the main force.


LBB> What makes producing and shooting your country so exciting right now? 

JM> I think it’s a lot about having creative freedom, when things get too controlled they have a tendency to become too stiff. I think people are definitely trying the push the standard of commercials to make them more cinematic and interesting.


LBB> What piece of work are you most proud of and why? 

JM> I just finished an art film for a museum in Denmark called ’The Journey’, which was really interesting. It’s about the seven human conditions. The themes were birth, death, love, faith, fear, loss and rationality. Seven chapters, one on each continent. So we literally went around the world to shoot it. Isolation in Antarctica, tribal rituals in Papua New Guinea and death in a holy Nepalese temple. That was a very interesting film, both professionally and personally for me. I love exploring new places and being inspired by people and surroundings.

LBB> Are there any aspects of cinematography that you wish people understood better or appreciated more?

JM> Cinematography is so different from film to film. Sometimes you are overwhelmed by beautiful pictures or technical pieces and that’s great. But for other stories it’s best not to be too technical. I just think it’s important to choose the right style for a project.


LBB> What are some recent examples of great cinematography from your region? 

I really like the recent cinematography from Robin Asselmeyer in Maceo Frost’s films, Raised By Krump and Nokia. Super nicely shot and great aesthetics.

I also like the Under Armour commercial that Kasper Tuxen and Martin de Thura did, it’s perfectly shot. Always interesting seeing their collaborations.


Erik Henriksson - Sweden

LBB> How would you describe yourself and your work?

EH> I’m just a guy who had dreams of becoming a professional snowboard freerider at a young age. But since I come from the south of Sweden which has no mountains, I had to face the facts and instead stand behind the camera. When I was 15 I called Niklas Allestig, owner of Downfilm, whose production company made the sickest ski films.

I called twice a year and every time he said, “Yeah, you can come with us to the Alps this winter.” But when winter came he just said, “Sorry dude, not now…. but call me in the fall!” Every year the same answer. 

I kept bugging him for four years and then one day he called and asked, “Can you fly to Milano tonight and take the rental car to the alps? The cinematographer is sick.” Sick(!) I thought to myself, and took the next flight that evening. 

During the following three years, I travelled the world and shot three feature ski films and that lead me into shooting commercials for The North Face, Gore-Tex and other outdoor brands. Which led to music videos and TVCs. Working in the alps and in the harsh sunlight is something I’ve embraced in my work, I like hard contrasts. I also think that you shouldn’t be afraid of the dark.  Too much soft light doesn’t appeal to me, I like to add harsh light to a scene to smooth it out. I really like scenes that look lit in an unnatural way. I take inspiration from the ‘80s and ‘90s John Woo films. I’ve been lucky to work with directors that have opened my eyes to lighting scenes in ways I had never thought of before. 


LBB> Nordic advertising has seen a shift away from a quirky kind of comedy to a more moody, visual, semi-documentary style. Would you agree with this statement?

EH> Yeah, I like how the clients and agencies approach briefs, you don’t always have to push the brand in people’s faces. But rather show the people and their stories. Big props to them! People will get that it’s a commercial for that specific brand, people get it!


LBB> What piece of work are you most proud of and why? 

EH> Through Vimeo I’ve gotten to know DPs, editors and directors from all around the world. Instagram has also helped me in reaching out to people whose work I admire. Some years ago I got a DM on Vimeo from this guy Anton Tammi, who had some questions about a music promo I’d done. One thing led to another and some years later we did a music promo in NYC for the band JIL. It was a guerrilla-style shoot and the whole crew and talent had to fit into a Mercedes Sprinter. To be able to come to a location and quickly decide, “does this work or not?” And then be in the car again onto the next location within five minutes really is something!

For three days we shot all around NYC and the result is something I’m very proud of. We had a solid crew that all pulled in the same direction. Mixing film/digital and working with both sharp and soft lenses gave us the specific look we were after.


LBB> Are there aspects of cinematography that you wish people understood better or appreciated more?

EH> ‘That table with those flowers’ was not there out of luck. The art department does such great work that they almost seem invisible. Also location scouts/managers are such a key position in making things look good!

 

LBB> What are some recent examples of great cinematography from your region?

EH> Axel Filip Lindahl’s handheld work is something I really enjoy watching, he’s not bound to putting the horizon horizontally. And he takes great stills too.

Daniel Takacs’ unique style in capturing people’s faces is something I get amazed by every time he and Marcus Söderlund work together!


Johan Hannu - Swedish

LBB> How would you describe yourself and your work?

JH> That’s a good question. To be honest, I don´t really know. I will say that’s something I’m still trying to figure out. I try to discover what’s underneath the surface on some kind of level. Something that gives the audience a feeling, but not in an intellectual way. 

I love to work with other creative people in developing something together. That way we can create something interesting 


LBB> Nordic advertising has seen a shift away from a quirky kind of comedy to a more moody, visual, semi-documentary style. Would you agree with this statement? 

JH> Yeah, totally! I was recently talking about that with a friend who is a director and I was like, ”what happened to the comedy in commercials?” I think it’s nice that we´re trying to develop the whole ‘scene’ and progress is important to me. But in some way, I feel kind of fed up of the moody semi-docu style now… It´s great when the story needs it! But sometimes it’s just there without a reason. And that´s boring and a bit lazy


LBB> What makes producing and shooting in your country so exciting right now? 

JH> We have great people with great ideas here! A lot of young talent who are not afraid of pushing the limits. And don´t forget that we have a beautiful country to shoot in. From the magic light up north to the beautiful southern parts.


LBB> What piece of work are you most proud of and why? 

JH> Well, I haven´t been shooting that long since I graduated from film school not too long ago. But from every project I do, I try to discover something new inside of me that will change the way I´m looking at the world. I did a poetic art music video called Fattigkussen. I really felt that I gave part of my soul to that project. It´s an interesting piece. And I really like a commercial I did called Netcom – Telescope, where we tried to tell the story of two different personalities in a visual way. It turned out really nice. 


LBB> Are there aspects of cinematography that you wish people understood better or appreciated more?

JH> Love this question! How often aren´t you on a set and repeating to yourself in your head, ”how come no one gets me and what I'm trying out here?” I hope that people who are into storytelling have some kind of idea of what cinematography is. Some just want ‘cool and beautiful pictures’ but that doesn't necessarily mean it is best for the project. And to be honest, what the hell are beautiful pictures? 


LBB> What are some recent examples of great cinematography from your region? 

JH> I really like a feature called Yarden by a great cinematographer called Ita Zbroniec-Zajt. And another feature called Flocking shot by Gösta Reiland. Those two movies are truly great cinematography and great storytelling.






Picture credit: JIL – All Your Words - Erik Henriksson

Genre: Strategy/Insight