Interview | Swedish Street Photographer Daniel Eliasson

Daniel, could you please tell us a little about you?

I was born and raised in Gothenburg, Sweden 36 years ago, and I have always been photographing for as long as I can remember. I soon developed my passion for street photography, but at the time I didn’t know that my passion for documenting social life was called “Street Photography”. I didn't show my photos to anybody outside the family for about 15 years. I didn't think I was good enough.


Today I arrange street photography workshops and lectures and I've recently became a teacher in street photography at the people university of Gothenburg. Together with a couple of friends I arrange two photowalks a year in Gothenburg, which previously attracted between 200-300 photographers each time and got a lot of attention in the media.

My style of street photography is very focused on people, and I try to capture emotions in each shot to produce photos with a certain feeling.


I was straight away attracted to your photography looking at the first photo on your homepage, the one with motion blur "Julen är här". Where and how was it shot?

The photo "Julen är här" was shot a cold winter day in Gothenburg. I woke up a couple of days earlier with an image in my head of a begging woman with people passing by like shadows. So I decided to go out with a tripod and wait for the right moment. I wanted the people to form lines towards the woman to draw the attention into the photo. I waited for two hours before I got the right shot. I'm most satisfied with the sign on the store that says "Julen är här", which in swedish means "Christmas is here". Another detail that I really like is that the woman to the left has the same colours on her clothes as the begging woman.


A lot of your street photography consists of street portraits which are fantastic. Are these strangers you approach? What tips do you have for anyone to be more confident in approaching people they don't know?

When I shoot street photography I'm always looking for interesting characters. I try to get as close as possible, and when I think I'm really close I step even closer. I usually wait until they notice me and look straight in the camera, before pressing the shutter. This gives the photo a certain presence. If I miss the shot, I politely ask them if I may take their portrait.


My best tips for shooting street portraits is:

1. Never hesitate. If you're insecure you will make people uncomfortable and aggressive.

2. Smile and flatter. Most people will be really flattered that you've noticed them. Especially if you tell them that you love their jacket.

3. Be prepared. Most people will ask what you are doing. Give them a business card and tell them that you're doing a documentary project.


If you are curious of Daniel works, I recommend checking out this excellent video where he attached a video camera to his lens during a street walk in Gothenburg:

The "Angered" photo. Did you write "Angered" on it? Tell me more.

In this photo you see the tram with the destination "Angered", a ruff suburb to Gothenburg. The boys are typically suburban kids with a lovely attitude. The text is from the sign on the tram.


That's a great catch Daniel!

There's an equal mix of black and white and colour. When do you decide to use one or the other?

I always try each photo in both color and black and white, and picks what best suits the photo. Since I focus on people, most of my photos end up in black and white. I believe that you see the person in black and white and the person's clothes in color. I also love the timelessness of a black and white photo.


Some people strive to show humour in street photography, others focus on the aesthetics...what should the ideal street photo be for you personally?

I strive to capture emotions in my photos; loneliness, love, happiness and sadness. A good photo should make you feel and leave you touched.


A lot of people rave about London or NYC. Do you think location matters for street photography?

I believe people matter more than location. Yet location can impact on how a person radiates emotions. I visited Budapest a year ago, and fell in love with the amazing characters on the streets and at the bars. Berlin is an amazing city as well with lots of characters and beautiful ruff environments. You can tell that the people has had a hard time in their lives. This is a good recipe for strong photos.


Finally, what would be the one piece of advice you wish someone gave you the first time you picked up a camera?

The piano player will not be better on a more expensive piano. If I could go back in time I would have given myself the advise to practise on the equipment I already own, instead of always chasing new and better equipment. Today I use one lens 90% of the time. When I decided to practise on one lens, I grew tremendously as a photographer.

Thanks Daniel!

Visit Daniel Eliasson's website, like his Facebook page and follow him on Twitter!

All photos © Daniel Eliasson