The Swedish Couple Who Travel the World Photographing ‘Death Metal’ Landscapes
With one camera, one flash, and one lens, they manage to collapse the earth in upon itself.
In another time, Inka and Niclas Lindergård might have be tried for witchcraft. They seem capable of manipulating the Earth in impossible ways, like making the Northern Lights appear inside the mouth of a cave. There's no magic here though, or Photoshop tricks. Inka and Niclas promise their only real power is meticulous patience. If one had to classify their work, it would come under the umbrella of "landscape photography." After all, that is what they shoot. But the label hardly does them any justice—the pair's photography sits so far outside of the tradition.
You'll agree once you peek inside their second book, The Belt of Venus and the Shadow of the Earth. The title comes from one of the most photographed subjects in the world: the sunset. "The Belt of Venus" is the pink rim of light the sun casts across the skyline as it sinks, and the "Shadow of the Earth" is just that—the shadow Earth casts on its own atmosphere. Together, the two phenomenon create that beautiful pink-to-blue gradient we'd call a sunset.
Inka and Niclas aren't just nice photographers; they're captivating storytellers too. Here, they tell us how they met, recount a life-affirming stay in a Tanzanian coffee field, and describe the most magical beach in New Zealand.
The Belt of Venus and the Shadow of the Earth is available in hardcover here.
VICE: When did you meet each other?
Inka and Niclas: We met in the south of Sweden while studying photography in 2005. Niclas came from the north of Sweden, and had previously worked in the steel industry. He was into 80s metal and had the hair to match. Inka was into old photographic processes, she was a born vegetarian, and she sewed her own clothes in a sort of hippie, grandma style. We both found the other kind of strange and interesting. Our apartments were really close and we started spending a lot of time together in this super small village.
And when did you begin working together, creatively?
We started discussing doing a project together after graduation, at the same time we had also become a couple. We helped each other a lot while studying, so we knew the other's work very well. Then, years ago, we went to a friend's super simple house far out in a coffee field in Tanzania. The house's lighting ran on a car battery, and for one of us to use the shower, the other had to pump on something like a step machine. From the porch we could gaze up at Mount Kilimanjaro.
We ended up staying there for three months, just working every day. We'd decided to execute every little grain of an idea we had, to figure out what we would be like as a duo. In the end, we used maybe four or five photographs from the thousands we took during our time in that house. It's been about nine years now and we no longer know any other way to work than together.
Much of your work in The Belt of Venus and the Shadow of the Earth looks impossible to have occurred naturally. Tell me more about achieving these images, technically.
We always keep it really simple gear-wise, we own a regular DSLR, a speedlight and one lens. It's not a big production with six flashes and a wind machine. It's about doing a lot with a little, and waiting for the right circumstances is a big part of the process. It's is such a great feeling when everything lines up perfectly, and the photograph becomes something more than what either one us could have planned for.
A lot of the works in the series revolve around performative acts that can only be experienced through the photograph. Everything you see in the images has happened at the moment of exposure. We treat our actions—be it throwing powder into the wind, building a sculpture out of branches or having light briefly colour some rocks—as a performances done in alliance with the landscape, the elements and the camera. We like to explore the camera's role as a bridge between the physical world and the photographic world.
Given the nature of your work, it only seems fair to ask: what are some of the most beautiful places in the world?
Iceland in general, but especially Jökulsárlón and the black beach covered with stranded icebergs. We've been there four times and each has been magic.
Then Koekohe Beach, in New Zealand. When we first arrived at the beach there was this totally magic, foggy, golden-pink sky. We immediately started running around in a panic, rearranging stuff and shooting thinking it will all go away in 10 minutes. After an hour the light was exactly the same, so we slowed down and really started to think about what to do next. We tried another idea for an hour or so, and the light just stayed exactly the same, like a sunrise frozen in the perfect position. We went on working the whole day until we were totally exhausted, and slowly the perfect sunrise just faded into a perfect sunset. It all felt surreal.
Third, Glacier Point in Yosemite at sunset. There's always a lot of people around since it's famous, but it's famous for a reason. We have to slide in Lofoten in Norway and The Tre Cime di Lavaredo in the Dolomites here as well.
You're shooting the natural world, but the pictures do have an otherworldly feeling to them. Were you ever interested in the occult?
We've always been fascinated with the mystique of nature, and we've searched for proof of the mystical everywhere: Norse mythology, Pagan religions, even spiritual postcards in gift shops. We're certainly interested in the aesthetics and the ritualistic spirit of occultists. We often refer to a photograph or a landscape as being "Death Metal," and we mean that in a very positive way.
What's next for you? What are you excited to work on in 2017?
We're exhibiting in Rotterdam in February and we just found out that we might go to Mexico to shoot in January. Otherwise, we just released our second book The Belt of Venus and the Shadow of The Earth. So now we are kind of naked, all the works we care about and have kept are now published. We get to start over in a way, that feels both exciting and a bit frightening. Right now we're working on these photographic sculptures; bending our pictures onto 3 dimensional plaster shapes, melting our images over natural objects. It's fairly a new direction for us.