By that time I didn’t have any plans on doing the photography for a living, I couldn’t imagine it to be a real profession, it was just a fun hobby and didn’t really believe that fun and work could be combined. Johansson’s artistic abilities have afforded him opportunities to work with clients like Adobe, Google, and National Geographic. The goal is to make it look as realistic as possible even if the scene itself contains impossible elements. When you work on a picture for such a long time—sitting 10–20 hours throughout the week with a photo—it’s really hard to see it the way someone else would see it the first time. A lot of planning goes into each finished product, always beginning with a simple sketch. You can find really big, abandoned buildings in the middle of the city, and just a couple of hundred meters away, you can see really nice, modern houses. Johansson: Last year Microsoft asked me if I wanted to be in a project called Generation 7 where seven selected talents in different areas were offered resources to realize their dream project. Erik Johansson: I get ideas all the time, not every one gets realized, not even one in ten. I think it’s nice to have some restrictions, a way to encage imagination and make the work more consistent, I can only do what I can shoot. I like how those street artists do 3D illusions with chalk and paint, and I thought it would be interesting to see if I could do that with photography—maybe make it look even more realistic. Although I’m moving around Sweden and the north European landscapes is something that I’m constantly coming back to for taking pictures and finding inspiration. Because of the former Berlin Wall, you have a contrast between the different parts [former West and East sectors]. But they can also be obstinate, inarticulate, prudish, and distant. A lot of scenes in my pictures are actually captured around where my parents live because I know those areas quite well. Once I’ve come up with an idea that I think is good enough to realize I need to find the places I need to shoot to put the photo together. This step also includes problem solving, how to make the perspective, reflections, materials and light etc. Check out our favorite photographers for the new year: Visually Stunning Images by Our Favorite Photographers for the New Year, Picture 1 of 60. It can take anything from a few weeks to several months. I went for the natural science program in high school and in 2005 I moved to Gothenburg to study Computer engineering at Chalmers University of Technology. I believe that inspiration lies in the contrast between things. I also like the feeling and colors of Salvador Dalí and the playfulness from some other artists. This dissatisfaction led him to photo manipulation, where he began altering his photos using programs like Photoshop, twisting and turning them in whatever ways he could imagine to create something unseen. That’s one of the reasons why my work looks the way it does. His work can be described as surreal scenes created by combining different photographs. EJ: I didn’t know about Luis Buñuel until just recently but Dali is a big inspiration. Once again I had to restart, meet new friends and get to know a new city. Johansson: I see myself as a photographer who can’t quite capture my ideas solely with a camera. That is how my interest in photo manipulation started, I learned by trying but it wouldn’t become a profession until years later. In 2011 he began doing street illusions, one of which gained national attention. You find locations and figure out what you need to shoot to be able to create this idea. I had a lot of ideas that I wanted to bring to life and it was a lot about problem solving trying to make it look as realistic as possible. His optical illusions, created by combining several photographs, take us into unknown and intriguing worlds. Since the camera captures something real, I want to make my pictures look realistic, as if they could have been captured somehow. To me, photography is just a way to collect the material I need to create my picture. This part is like a puzzle, I have all the pieces, I just need to put them together. For me the realism has always been very important and it’s a challenge to make a sketch come to life in a photo. For portfolio work, I have a print portfolio that I bring to agencies. Inspired by the world around him, especially his place of birth (with the wide open spaces around his parents’ house being the setting for many of his pieces), Johansson subverts aesthetics and expectations, a firm believer that our only limitations in life are those we place on ourselves. That place he was looking for all along that turned the world upside down. Johansson: I like illusions—when something looks like something else. I’d rather look into the future and realize as many ideas as possible during the limited time I’m here. As I always shoot everything myself I have to chose the ones I’m actually able to find locations for. Certain forms of technology have allowed us to present these emotional landscapes in incredibly realistic ways, forcing us to possibly even question what reality means to begin with. The way he connects mathematics to art is really fascinating. Johansson: Yes, it always starts with something simple like an idea. It becomes what it becomes, I just realize the ideas that come to my mind and I didn’t chose develop a specific style to make that happen. After the initial drawing he scouts for locations, always taking his own photographs instead of relying on stock photography (which can sometimes take just one day, several months, or even a year). The ones I get when I sleep are a bit too psychedelic and inconsistent. I have a Wacom Intuos5 touch Medium board, too. I get more inspiration from painters rather than photographers . I don’t have a tablet. After you find all the locations, you then move on to the second step, which is the photographing phase where you collect all the different materials you need. Work Together, 2020. Yes! I mean, everyone can learn Photoshop—and that’s the best thing: everyone is using it, from professionals to beginners. Johansson: Well, I usually change everything in them. I want to look forward and the flaws are signs of improvements, I hope I never become satisfied, I think that’s very dangerous for an artist.
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