Per Englund takes pictures because he likes to collect stuff he can’t carry home—stuff like moments, seasons, and weird fruit installations. He started taking pictures when he was 12 to document the graffiti he and his hoodlum friends were doing, and later published a zine called The Blob that Swedish people consider so important to our national character that we exhibited it at Nordiska Museet in Stockholm.He’s published books and zines ever since, although the graffiti has been replaced by snapshots of fruits and friends and tits and bats and food and whatnot. He also has an impressively neat mustache and cracks jokes in line with his native “Göteborgs humor”—whenever we play pool he’ll say, “We’re having a ball!” Or, conversely, “Balls!” if he’s losing. He’s very adept at ball games.
Vice: Hi Per, check out that tan! Are you on vacation now like all the other Swedes? Per Englund: I’m on a permanent vacation. I quit my job in January, so now I’m just taking pictures. I’ve been lucky enough to get a few commercial assignments to pay the bills, but I’m mainly working on my new book.
What is it about? It’s called Life in Sweden; the Complete Four Seasons and, as the title implies, it’s snapshots from my life in Sweden with a changing seasonal backdrop. I’ve been working on it for three years and it should be out sometime next fall. I worked way longer on my previous books to make sure they’d be something I could stand for in the long run--I spent five years on Life Geos On, for example, but I don’t know if I’m still going to like this one five years from now.
Is that because you’re exposing more of your private life here than you previously have? Nah, that part feels great. I’m doing the selection, so I’m in control. I’ve been shooting a lot of my friends so I’ll clear those pics with them before publishing anything.
Is your girlfriend OK with everyone seeing her tits? That will be up to her in the end, but taking those pictures has never been an issue. She gets more pissed off if I don’t take pictures of her.
What's going on with the still life you shot for the Photo Issue this year? Not much? I mean, it's plastic grapes in a silver bowl standing on an exquisite dark oak side-table with a backdrop of royal wallpaper. I shot it in February at a mansion in the province of Småland, where the king and queen stay whenever they visit the region. I was pretty shocked that they're tasteless enough to display plastic grapes.
Tasteless indeed. You shoot a lot of fruit, are you a big fruit lover? Actually, I don’t like eating fruit, but I love taking pictures of it. I love the colors and shapes.
You don't like fruit? Who doesn't like fruit? I’d eat a green apple, but only if it’s peeled. I also like grilled bananas dipped in chocolate with vanilla ice cream.
I guess that counts. What’s your favorite fruit to take pictures of? Pears. I love their shape. And grapes. They’re so classic.
Have you ever slipped on a banana peel or had any other fruit incidents while shooting? Yes! I did a fruit shoot for an Australian food magazine called Condiment with Anders Jandér, an art director I work with, where we went to a playground where all the slides and swings were fruits in the middle of the night and started making strange fruit installations. The park had a bouncy floor too, so we were dropping fruits on the ground and making a lot of noise when someone finally called the police. I was in the middle of taking a picture of this amazing fruit installation with all kinds of fruit hanging and bouncing from everywhere when a police officer came up behind me and, being so caught up in my fruit moment, I pushed him back and kept snapping.
Did he arrest you? No! He just came back with another policeman and yelled at us while we stood there with a bunch of fruit sticks and pineapples bouncing lower and lower around us. Eventually we managed to convince them that we were harmless.
How come you shoot so much still life? It’s peaceful; you can take your time and be in control of the balance and composition. It’s still challenging because it’s harder to make a still life look interesting. It’s like meditation, or like washing a lot of dishes by hand; once you start you just focus.
Do you have a favorite camera? I’ve always liked the limitations of small cameras, because they enable you to focus on what’s important. I started taking pictures on a compact Fuji 35mm, and then my dad introduced me to his Pentax SLR. But ever since the Canon G-7 came out in 2007, I’ve been hooked on the entire G-series.
I have one last question; do you find it annoying that some lame photographer dude owns Perenglund.com? I’m used to it now, but it used to be such a pain in the ass. Whenever I was featured somewhere, people linked to his page instead of mine. I even offered the guy cash to sell his site to me, but he refused. I’m thinking about stealing his design for my site to add to the confusion.
Nice one. INTERVIEW BY MILÈNE LARSSON Go to per-englund.com for the real deal.