Tommy Ingberg — Photo Montages

It gives me great plea­sure to announce that our pho­tog­ra­phy blog will be fea­tur­ing inter­views and the pho­tog­ra­phy of some of the extremely tal­ented pho­tog­ra­phers from Adore Noir Mag­a­zine. Adore Noir mag­a­zine is pub­lished online from Van­cou­ver, B.C. Canada and is ded­i­cated to fine art black and white pho­tog­ra­phy. This inter­view fea­tures Tommy Ing­berg, a Swedish fine art pho­tog­ra­pher who spe­cial­izes in photo montages.

Photography by Tommy Ingberg

Pho­tog­ra­phy by Tommy Ingberg


AN: Please intro­duce your­self. Where do you live?

TI: My name is Tommy Ing­berg. I am 32 years old and live in Upp­lands Väsby, just north of Stock­holm, Sweden.

AN: When and how did you get into photography?

TI: I have been pre­oc­cu­pied with pho­tog­ra­phy as long as I can remem­ber. When I was 15 years old I got my first sys­tem cam­era, a Prak­tica with two lenses. It had no aut­o­fo­cus and the meter­ing did not work. I spent end­less hours exper­i­ment­ing and shoot­ing as much film as I could afford. It was then I really decided that I wanted to do pho­tog­ra­phy. I needed a way to express myself, and instead of play­ing in a band, paint­ing or writ­ing, I chose pho­tog­ra­phy. What fol­lowed were sev­eral years of inten­sive pho­tog­ra­phy but it was when I could afford a dig­i­tal cam­era that I really started to develop. Thanks to the fact that I could see the result directly in the cam­era, the whole process of trial and error was speeded up tremen­dously by not hav­ing to wait for the pic­tures to come back from the lab.

Since then I have tried sev­eral areas of pho­tog­ra­phy, por­traits, con­cert pho­tog­ra­phy, street pho­tog­ra­phy, nature pho­tog­ra­phy and every­thing in between. I can’t tell you why I chose pho­tog­ra­phy, but there is some­thing about it that really speaks to me. Even nowa­days I can still feel that excite­ment when I know that I just cap­tured a great pic­ture, often when some­thing unex­pected hap­pens in front of the cam­era. No mat­ter how well you plan your shoots, there is still an ele­ment of chance involved, and I love that about photography.

AN: What sparked your inter­est in photo montages?

TI: I have always grav­i­tated more towards art pho­tog­ra­phy than doc­u­men­tary pho­tog­ra­phy. When look­ing back at my old pic­tures I can see how my cur­rent style of imagery slowly but surely matured into what it is today. Sub­con­sciously it’s been there the whole time in terms of light­ing and the choice of a motive. Dur­ing all the years I have pho­tographed I have con­stantly been look­ing for my own expres­sion, but it always felt like a piece of the puz­zle was miss­ing. It never really“clicked”. The motives I sought sim­ply didn’t exist, at least not in real­ity. I could not really tell the sto­ries I wanted to with just the camera.

About three years ago I made a series of pic­tures where I mixed street pho­tog­ra­phy with some edit­ing; such as crop­ping, selec­tively blur­ring parts of the images and adding tex­tures to them. By cross­ing the line into heavy image edit­ing I was able to tell a coher­ent story. Encour­aged by the result I started exper­i­ment­ing with pure photo-montages and it was then when I allowed the images to really grow beyond the cam­era that the pieces fell into place, and I could refine my style fur­ther. That was a great feel­ing, to finally find “my” kind of expression.

Photography by Tommy Ingberg

Pho­tog­ra­phy by Tommy Ingberg


AN: Do you plan your images in advance or is it spontaneous?

TI: For me cre­ativ­ity does not come easy. I can’t just sit around and wait for an idea. It is hard work and a lot of trial and error. Some­times I can work for weeks and only pro­duce pic­tures that go straight into the garbage bin, but I know that if I keep work­ing, just keep tak­ing pic­tures and mak­ing mon­tages, I will even­tu­ally get a result I am happy with. I have found that if I keep my mind focused on cre­at­ing it will even­tu­ally get the pieces together and pro­duce a good idea for a pic­ture. Often the good ideas appear when I take a break from the cre­ative work and let my sub­con­scious take over. I find this to be a good solu­tion for all kinds of prob­lem solv­ing, not just cre­ative. When I have a solid idea I start work­ing by cre­at­ing a sketch on paper, pho­tograph­ing the pic­tures I need, and make a rough first draft on the com­puter. Some­times I need to do this a cou­ple of times before I’m happy with it and pro­ceed to make the final composite.

I’ve been pho­tograph­ing dig­i­tally long before I started doing mon­tages, and since I never really throw any image files away I have a huge archive of stock images I can use in my mon­tages. Nowa­days I also shoot gen­eral stock images for use in future mon­tages. When doing a com­pos­ite, I often com­bine images from my archive with pic­tures shot specif­i­cally for the mon­tage I’m work­ing on. Typ­i­cally I shoot my main sub­jects in a stu­dio with con­trolled light­ing, or if too large to fit in a stu­dio, out­side dur­ing an over­cast day and com­bine them with pic­tures from my archive. Even though I do cre­ate spon­ta­neous com­pos­ites out of just images in my photo archive, I find that the results are often bet­ter if I shoot with a spe­cific idea in mind.

AN: Tell us about your Real­ity Rearranged series.

TI: For me, sur­re­al­ism is about try­ing to explain some­thing abstract like a feel­ing or a thought, express­ing the sub­con­scious with a pic­ture. The Real­ity Rearranged series is my first try atde­scrib­ing real­ity through sur­re­al­ism. Dur­ing the two and a half years I have worked on the series I have used my own inner life, thoughts and feel­ings as seeds to my pic­tures. In that sense the work is very per­sonal, almost like a visual diary. Despite this sub­jec­tive­ness in the process I hope that the work can engage the viewer in hers or his own terms. I want the viewer to pro­duce their own ques­tions and answers when look­ing at the pic­tures, my own inter­pre­ta­tions are really irrel­e­vant in this context.

AN: What feel­ings are you try­ing to con­vey to your viewers?

TI: My images cover a wide spec­trum of emo­tions and basic human self-reflection that I think we all deal with. I often have a very spe­cific feel­ing or thought in mind when I cre­ate an image, but I try to get some dis­tance from it before I start work­ing on the image, oth­er­wise I have found that the result gets a lit­tle too straight for­ward and blunt. A bit of dis­tance helps me cre­ate calmer images with more sub­dued emo­tion and com­men­tary. I feel that an image works best if there is some ambi­gu­ity to it. I try to make my images ask ques­tions rather than answer­ing them. I think it is very inter­est­ing to hear dif­fer­ent people’s inter­pre­ta­tions of my images, even if it’s an inter­pre­ta­tion I can’t relate to. I think one of the main char­ac­ter­is­tics of sur­re­al­ism is that it forces the viewer to think.

Photography by Tommy Ingberg

Pho­tog­ra­phy by Tommy Ingberg


AN: What inspires you?

TI: That varies. Some­times it’s a sim­ple object. For instance, I found this really awe­some hat that inspired me to make a pic­ture. I saw it a cou­ple of weeks ago and had it in the back of my mind for a while before I devel­oped an idea and today I took it home to pho­to­graph it. I read a lot and watch lots of movies and find inspi­ra­tion in that. Lately I’ve also been try­ing to read poetry. My main source of inspi­ra­tion though is music. I always lis­ten to music and could really not imag­ine life with­out it. Despite movies, music, books and other exter­nal sources of inspi­ra­tion I still feel that I need inspi­ra­tion from inside myself, my life and my expe­ri­ences. I need to have some­thing to say that comes from within; oth­er­wise there is no real point in cre­at­ing. I would just be re-telling some­one else’s story, cre­at­ing mean­ing­less, empty imagery.

AN: What are your influences?

TI: Since I’ve tried so many types of pho­tog­ra­phy my influ­ences have been many and diverse, from clas­sic pho­tog­ra­phy and arts, rather than from dig­i­tal art. Early on it was the great mas­ters of pho­tog­ra­phy like Cartier-Bresson, Lei­boviz, Erwitt, Bras­sai and so on — too many to name. I con­sumed a lot of pho­tog­ra­phy and had new favourites every day. When I started doing pho­tomon­tages I started to learn more about the great painters and artists from other fields, like Warhol, Picasso, Magritte, Miró and Escher. I have learned a lot by study­ing great­ness in all fields of art includ­ing music, pho­tog­ra­phy, paint­ing, poetry or any­thing else. It is very hum­bling to look at your own work in that con­text.
AN: Do you have any cur­rent projects on the go?

I am still work­ing on my Real­ity Rearranged series, and plan to fin­ish it this year. I am also work­ing on a series that I call­Stranger. With that series I will con­tinue doing sur­re­al­ism but with more com­plex sto­ries, and with a more com­plex style of imagery. I have also tried to mix in more real­ism, and a dif­fer­ent style draw­ing inspi­ra­tion from pic­to­ri­al­ism. As well I have some ideas and projects in early stages I’m work­ing on.

AN: What is your final say?
TI: Well, I don’t feel I am in a posi­tion to give advice to any­one, I am still early in my devel­op­ment as an artist, but if there is any­thing I’ve learned so far it is that you only have one shot at life, so try to spend as much time as pos­si­ble doing what you love.

Photography by Tommy Ingberg

Pho­tog­ra­phy by Tommy Ingberg


This inter­view and accom­pa­ny­ing images was reprinted with per­mis­sion from Adore Noir.
Adore Noir is a sub­scrip­tion based online pho­tog­ra­phy mag­a­zine spe­cial­iz­ing in awe­some fine art black and white photography.


  1. Israel says:

    I love the con­cep­tu­al­iza­tion and the cre­ativ­ity, and very inspir­ing images too.

  2. Great series of images. I love this style of work.

Speak Your Mind