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The Sound Of Scandinavia

JOHAN RÖNNOW

It’s 9am and the sun is coming through the scattered clouds, a normal morning in southern Sweden. But this morning is as far as we can get from normality. We are at a public pool in the outskirts of Malmö, there is a man standing in A speedo and fake fur coat with aN umbrella cocktail in his hands.
One could imagine that we are in the middle of a scene out of a new Quentin Tarantino movie, but in fact we are in the middle of a photo shoot with Malmö based photographer Johan Rönnow and country artist David Ritschard “the uncrowned king of Swedish country music” (which we filmed for a future The Sound of Scandinavia post), to find out His thoughts on music photography and working in Malmö.
Below find our interview with Johan, interspersed with his selection of favourite images he has shot, while in the gallery just below we present our favourites following that be sure check out johans specially curated playlist on spotify, tidal and qobuz.

Tell us a little about yourself who you are where is your heart at what brought you to Malmö?

Well originally, I grew up in Helsingborg, just about an hour north of Malmö. I was originally on my way to Copenhagen, but I got stuck in Malmo, it seemed like a really cool place, and now it’s been18 years.

 

Have you been photographing all that time?

It started with music. I’ve always just loved music, going to live shows, the energy of that and then I kind of came into the photography side of it with all the record covers and all the visual aspects of it.

I can’t really remember how I picked up a camera, but it naturally just leaned towards musicians and music, catching that vibe, that energy, trying to interpret music into still photography, just trying to tell the story of what they’re saying and what they’re doing; that’s what really fascinates me about photography.

 

Hodja / We Are the Here and Now
American, Danish, and German trio based in Copenhagen.
Artwork for inner sleeve of album “We Are the Here and Now.”
“Collaboration with Danish artist Jenz Koudahl who later designed one of my tattoos.Got busted by the cops for painting on a heritage wall.”

SHiTKiD
Press material for Stockholm based garage punk duo SHiTKiD that has now gone up in smoke.
“Shot in the middle of nowhere on a farm during a small alternative music festival. There’s a hog!”

Do you have any favourites among the artists you have shot?

There are several but basically it is more a case of preferring when you develop a long-term relationship, where you both grow. Like with David Ritschard. I really enjoy when you work with someone, and you develop a kind of teamwork, and you start building on top of what you already done so it’s a development all the time. And so, with David we just generally started talking. It’s like, “hey it’d be fun to do this, and I’ve got these ideas.” Then we just start shooting ideas back and forth.

What is your process?

I mean I always try to understand the musician, the artist that I’m photographing. I listen into the music, I read up about them, and then I’ll come with ideas. Sometimes it’s my ideas that we’re doing because they feel that those communicate them well or and sometimes it’s the artist’s idea and I just I’m there to interpret their vision, what they’re communicating to me. But I always work as a team and just try to get the most out of everybody involved with the shoot.

So, what are some of your favourite images?

I do enjoy the one where David gives me the bird. That’s a great one. It’s shot in a hotel, but it looks like a cruise ship from the ‘70s and he’s ticked off at me for some reason. I love the energy of that one.

Don’t know if I have a lot of favourites like that. Anyone that you see energy in, somehow contradicting the fact of it being still photography. I do enjoy those that have an essential sense of motion in them, even though they’re still, those would be my favorites. Obviously, it depends on my mood as well, doesn’t it?

Birdcloud
Press material for country punk duo from Nashville Birdcloud.
Shot outside of Malmö venue Plan B before their gig.
“They were in an alternative state which caused for a memorable story from them and a quick shoot due to heavy falafel cravings.”

David Ritschard/Kärleken Mellan Man Och Häst (The Love Between Man and Horse)
Press and tour material for Swedish country musician David Ritschard.
“Both David and I are afraid of horses. Not only that, but David is highly allergic so his whole face swelled up. The second part of the shoot with the car was delayed several hours to hopefully minimise the impression of his swollen face.”

Do you have any stories of favourite shoots?

I do. There was the first one David and I did together. There’s a horse involved and I’m deadly afraid of horses. That was the only time I’ve ever wished for one of those big white sport lenses so you could be really far away, but I didn’t have one of those, so I was kind of terrified throughout the whole thing and then at the same time David is allergic to horses and being on the horse or next to the horse kind of cuddling with the horse, his face just blew up like a soccer ball. It was just funny and an odd day that I’ll probably never forget.

Who would you most like to collaborate with?

I would have to say Tom Waits. First of all, he’s photogenic as nobody else and I just love his music, so that would be a dream job.

Any thoughts as to what those shots would look like?

They’re all dreamy…

Any favourite images that you haven’t shot. Any favourite photographers?

I don’t necessarily follow any specific photographers. I connect more with the mood rather than a specific style. So, all the great ones you already know like Annie Leibovitz and Anton Corbin and the guy who shot Muddy Waters for his most famous record…  Richard Avedon!

I always return to them, but I also try to try to take inspiration from other aspects, like just the general mood of the music and even movies. You know a lot of it comes from movies. I used to be a film buff and I just watched movies over and over. Jim Jarmusch would be a great example of somebody who’s inspired me, but in reverse, with his ability to create a moving imagery but you’re sensing a still photo in that. A more recent example would be The Joker. I mean any if you pause that movie at any time, it’s a beautiful still image. So, I think what inspires me more than a specific photographer is where you find expression of movement and a sense of something going on.

David Ritschard – Som En Hank Williams Refräng (Like A Hank Williams Refrain)
Press and tour material for Swedish country musician David Ritschard.

What’s it like shooting in Malmö?

Malmö is such a great spot for music and photographing musicians. There’s a very laid-back and open vibe around Malmö, with it being a smaller city making it easy to navigate around and connect with people. There’s also a creative vibe around Malmö that I really enjoy and the variety of what’s going on here means that you’ve got all kinds of music playing all the time.

I’ve had the pleasure of shooting some punk bands from Malmö, which is just awesome, so there are so many different opportunities and so many different genres that you know it’s hard not to dig into it all!

 

Bror Gunnar Jansson – They Found My Body in a Bag

Artwork for southern gothic, blues, stoner, folk, rock hybrid musician Bror Gunnar Jansson’s new album “They Found My Body in a Bag.”

“A very different shoot portraying a vision from the artist rather than the artist. Shot from several angles which took a long time and the person portraying the creatures had to stay in a crouched position for hours. Poor thing!”

Tidal Playlist:

 

Spotify Playlist: