Street photography for Swedish photographer Lasse Persson, is an art of observation and a photographic statement about the human condition. Using his forty plus years of experience as a press photographer, Lasse, when out on the streets, looks for those moments that can be extraordinary, humorous or absurd in the everyday life.
Tell us a bit about yourself. How did you become interested in photography?
I was born in Malmö located in the southern part of Sweden but I have been living in Stockholm for quite many years now. I also lived in Los Angeles for some years back in the 1970s from where I worked as a freelance photographer for Swedish newspapers and magazines. Became interested in photography already at the age of 10. I received a camera as a gift from my uncle and soon after, I became a member of a photo club. Due to my young age, I got a mentor who taught me the basics of photography, how the camera works, the technology, and how to develop film and make prints in the darkroom.
You said you were a press photographer, tell us a bit about how that experience has shaped the way you take pictures now.
I started to work as a press photographer when I was 19 years old. I overcame my timidity which later has been an advantage for me in my street photography since I don’t have problems with approaching people. Street and press photography have a lot in common...they are both about observation, to have a keen eye and an interest in people to be able to tell a story in a single picture.
Do you have a favourite quote/lyric/saying that especially resonates with you?
I have to quote Robert Capa - "If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough." It suits me very well in my street photography.
Where do you find your inspiration? And do you have a favourite place to shoot?
I find my inspiration from traveling and watching people on the streets but also from other photographers. All streets wherever they are, inspires me. I especially I like the streets of Stockholm but also in many different Spanish cities were I love to walk the streets with the camera in my hand and with open eyes.
In general, what do you want to express through your photography? And what are some of the elements you always try to include in your photographs?
The human element is essential in my pictures. I want my pictures to reflect a curiosity about people and show peoples every day life witch can be humorous, absurd, extraordinary and much more.
Do you have any favourite artists/photographers? Who do you think has mostly influenced your style?
I have many favourite photographers like Elliott Erwitt, Henri Cartier-Bresson, W. Eugene Smith, Robert Doisneau, Peter Turnley, Peter Kool and many more. But the photographer who’s style inspired me the most when I was a young and avid photographer traveling around Europe in the 1960s was Tony Ray Jones. He made a fantastic book 'A day off' about the English people just before he died of cancer very young.
Are there any books that you have read that have inspired your creativity and that you would like to recommend to us?
There are quite many. I am thinking about Elliott Erwitts ”Snaps”, Steve McCurrys ”Untold” and all the books by Martin Parr and ”Street photography now” by Sophie Howarth and Stephen McLaren. I can recommend them all.
Does the equipment you use help you in achieving your vision in your photography? What camera do you use? Do you have a preferred lens/focal length?
I have always and still am unimpressed by cameras and equipment. I have a camera that I am comfortable with that is light and that I can hold in one hand to be ready to snap. The camera I use is a Nikon D3500 with a zoom 18-105 mm, mostly I use it at 18 mm. This camera gives me a picture quality that I’m happy with…. but the most important tools are my eyes, not the camera.
Your photos show people in Spain, France, and your home country Sweden. We take it you like to travel. Do you have a favourite place to shoot in?
Yes, I like to travel and have done so all my life. Nowadays, my wife and I travel around in Southern Europe with our motorhome for about 6 months every year and have been doing so for quite a many years now. It gives me great opportunities in my street photography to get to new places and cities, which is very inspiring. I particularly like to shoot in Spanish cities such as Malaga, Murcia and Valencia.
When you go out on the streets, do you have a concept in mind of what you want to shoot, or do you let the images just "come to you", or is it both?
I let the images just 'come to me'.
Have you ever been involved in the artistic world before photography?
No, I have never been involved in the artistic world.
What are some of your goals as an artist? Where do you see yourself or hope to see yourself in five years?
To continue to shoot on the streets and to stay alive for 5 years more.
Are there any special projects you are currently working on that you would like to let everyone know about?
I am preparing for my first solo exhibition which I hope will taking place in a gallery in a gallery in Stockholm in August or September 2021.
“When I am not out photographing, I (like to)…
...travel with our motorhome and much more."
Thank you Lasse!
All photos © Lasse Persson
Interview by Melanie Meggs