Leila Lonnroth: “I like to play, and for me photography is all about playfulness”


My biggest challenge when I decided to ask you for this interview was to select one picture. This happened for two reasons. First because Ι am a big fan of yours  and secondly because you work with tightly knit trilogies. This connection of images is so strong that I tend to see them as a whole. It can be a close up of a single object or a trilogy of a horse, a cat and a freckled face. Would you like to talk about them?

I admit; I have an obsessive side! My wardrobe is organised by colour and so are the books in my bookshelves. So no surprise that I also like my photos to be colour coded and ordered. I love shapes and colours. I post three photos in a row because it makes me feel good. Three IS my favourite number!

So after a long and considerate thought I chose your red wooden shack, a sharp and clean image that repeats periodically in your gallery. Is it one or are they many? How did it all start?

My red wooden wall photos are actually almost all from different places up in the Nordic countries. You’ll find these beautiful red barns, shacks and houses wherever you travel in Finland and Sweden. They are in every village. I guess they are the equivalent to the Greek white washed walls? I love the way the red wood patina weathers and changes with age. The red wall becomes a canvas of whatever objects people have propped up against these walls. The photo you have selected is taken at the home of good friends who live on The Aland Islands. The wall had a beautiful composition, like in an art gallery. I was attracted to those gorgeous, sleek, grey wooden tools and those bold, harsh and grey lines against that red canvas wall. (I obviously had to use a quote from the infamous book Fifty Shades of Grey).

Nice is different than good; as you state in another favourite shot of yours. Browsing through your whole portfolio I haven’t noticed any inconsistencies, you have created your own personal signature. What are the elements that constitute this, how can I shoot Laleikkwise?

Thank you, and that’s a difficult question for me to answer. Less Is More is my minimalist motto (by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe). I like to play, and for me photography is all about playfulness. When I photograph I don’t think, I just go with what feels exciting, curious or striking. I look and I ask my self; “What’s grabbing my attention right now?” There is always something interesting or amusing, even in the midst of the mundane and boring. I like to shoot simplicity, yet hopefully also tell some kind of a story, or portray something that makes the viewer see something new. But as I said, I don’t think too much while I photograph.

You have lovely captions in your photos, full of wit and always in tandem with the photo. This creates a strong and clear visual message. Tell me about the creative process, how do you combine these two parts?

I need more joy, lightness and fun (maybe we all do?). Therefore I try to keep my images and myself playful. If I get too serious or pretentious, I remind myself to go back to the joy of photography and that of playing. Usually I take a photo and then I associate freely and see where my mind takes me. Then I find a quote that matches/or is the opposite, of what I see. I might be The Queen of Quotes. I collect quotes. When I was growing up it was a bit of a sport with an older very witty aunt of mine; we would see who could find the silliest quote or the most misplaced saying. I guess I’m trying to keep up that tradition today.

Another reason that I wanted this interview so badly is because you seem quite a mystery to me. I can’t correlate your origin from your images. Could you tell me a few things about you, especially about how you started photography?

I’m a nomadic British-Swedish-speaking-Finn; I grew up on an island in the Baltic Sea. I’m presently living in the French part of Switzerland. I travel a lot. This could be the reason why I’m a bit hard to pin point?

I got my first camera on my tenth birthday. I remember the first photo I ever took; a black and white picture of a huge pile of hundreds of round orbits of cut timber trees. A minimalistic photo actually (even though I had no idea what that meant at the time).

The average Instagram minimalism is cold, structural and impersonal. I find yours warm, organic and nostalgic. How do you make this mix, what is the secret of keeping things simple but emotional?

I really have no idea 

Which art movements have influenced you? Do you have any favourite photographers?

The Minimalistic movement; when art is found in a simple line, in a shadow, an open space or a fragment of a detail.

Roy Andersson, the Swedish film makerhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wzbQbHWrR3E

Edward Hopper, the painter.

On Instagram: There are so many talented people on Instagram! I love that place. Two feeds that stand out for me at the moment are @jonathanconner10 (he makes beautiful landscape images) and his total opposite; @goodcomma (she makes strong bold detailed images).

You have an equal amount of outdoors and indoors photos. What do you prefer, hunting or building a shot?

I love staging a shoot indoors, getting the whole scene just right: reflections, light, setting a mood etc. I often wish I could just stick to that type of photography. But, as soon as I go outside I see so many interesting things that I just can’t resist photographing. Perhaps I’m staging my photos, because I’m not actually as orderly as I would like to be in real life.

Interview was taken on 11.10.2016

Leila’s profile in Instagram https://www.instagram.com/laleikk/