PRO PORTRAIT: The Perspective Illusions of Photographer Erik Johansson.

Erik Johansson creates photography that you can't take with your camera.

He grew up on a farm in the middle of Sweden and had a big impact on his visual photographic style. The 28 year-old photographer gets inspiration from things around him in his daily life, and he enjoys taking the mundane and making it surreal and filled with illusion. His passion in drawing, painting and photography, along with a keen interest in computer games and technology has led him to create images that satisfy his desire to escape to other worlds—and he takes us with him. He uses perspective illusions and gets more inspiration from painters rather than other photographers. Many of his photographs capture his memories of the Swedish with wide-open landscapes and small red houses. 

“For as long as I can remember I have liked drawing. Probably because of my grandmother who was a painter. Early I also got interested in computers, escaping to other worlds in computer games. At the age of 15 I got my first digital camera which opened up a new world. Being used to drawing it felt quite strange to be done after capturing a photo, it wasn’t the process of creating something in the same way. Having an interest in computers made it a quite natural step to start playing around with the photos and creating something that you couldn’t capture with the camera. It was a great way of learning, learning by trying. But I didn’t considered it as a profession until years later.”

His process starts with a sketch, a simple idea. While not many ideas get realized it is a way to sort through and see which ideas can evolve, and which ones fall apart. Erik believes the idea is as important as the realization. 

Once he settles on an idea, he identifies various shoot locations needed to put the photo together. This can take anywhere between a few days to several months, sometimes years. Erik says this is the most important step as it defines the look and feel of the photo. Once the photos are taken he steps into the world of technology retouching which can take a few days to several weeks.  He says this is actually the easiest step—it’s like putting together a puzzle, he has all the pieces, he just needs to put them together. He shoots with a Canon EOS 5d mark II
, a home-built PC, and Adobe Photoshop CS5.

Erik’s images have led to commissions from advertising agencies, and the likes of Google and Microsoft. Erik now works from Berlin on both personal and commissioned projects. He also creates photography street illusions and has interest in filmmaking. In November 2011 he spoke at the TED conference in London.


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