Bronze position in the Series category went to Rikard Osterlund
for his series "Flowers
", which is a contemporary rephrasing of the vanitas flower piece and was inspired by the Dutch flower painters of the late 17th Century. We asked him what prompted him to enter Still Life: 5.
"I've been looking at your previous competitions winners and for a few years, but it has always been an afterthought to enter my own work," he said. "My good friend Bjørn Venø got an award a few years ago and I saw that LPA competitions are a great way to promote and network via the online presence of the LPA. When I saw Still Life: 5 advertised, I knew I had to enter my Flower series. They seemed a perfect fit."
Rikard started the project a few years ago when he wanted to make an image for my grandfather's 80th birthday. "He used to be a gardener and headmaster at a horticultural school in Norrkoping, Sweden and I had been wanting to make a photograph especially for him for a long time," he told us. "I was looking at the Dutch masters flower paintings and fell in love with the opulence and technical artistry of the compositions. 'Flowers in a Vase (In Search of the Semper Augustus)' was the image I made. This first one sparked many more ideas and I became interested in the visual experience of the old Dutch Masters paintings. The paintings often look like photographs, and are exceptionally well executed. There is a clash between the transience inherent in the symbols used and the way the painting has frozen each dying flower in time. This impossibility interested me. The use of artificial flowers in my arrangements is a contemporary update, reflecting on our current relationship with nature and the way I feel the idea of transience has become ever more distorted."
Still-life is an area of art history that Rikard feels increasingly drawn to. "It inspires me in my personal projects," he said. "I love working with people - portraits and fashion are the majority of my commercial work -but over the last year I have been doing more and more images without people (interiors, still-life and products) and I love it."
Rikard has a first-class BA Honours degree in Editorial and Advertising Photography, and assisted advertising photographers in Sweden prior to his studies. "It was important for me to get out of the groove of what I thought I was good at, to try new things and feel uncomfortable with the camera," he explained. "So I collaborated with the fashion students at university, even though this was not part of my assessment. I would like to think that I still push myself with my work, trying new areas and approaches to making images that I'm not used to."
"Three years ago, I would have said that I was a solely fashion photographer but, since then, I have been shooting more and more interiors and portraits - something I enjoy immensely," he told us. "Portraits and interiors are more down to earth. Sometimes with fashion photography you need to enter another aspirational plane, where the fantasy is more important. It is great to have a balance between the different approaches. You learn so much doing different things. Fashion upstarts have such massive overheads and the photography budgets have been cut severely on many occasions so there has definitely been tightening of belts. My photography is based in my methodology to making images and my approach to lighting, rather than a particular genre."
Rikard believes most important aspect of commercial work is understanding the client's needs and being able to negotiate and discuss briefs. "Empathy with your client is hard if you do not understand the wider world that your photographs exist in," he told us. " Good photography for photography's sake is very dull and are rarely successful outside of photographer-circles. There are some things that are clearly important if you want to be successful: you need to shoot a lot and constantly practice your skills. If you know your craft - not just the camera end, but planning through to delivery - you don't have to rely on one part of the process to do all the work for you. Finally, I would say be your own worst critic!"
Rikard told us about one of his favourite commissions so far. "A few years ago I was asked by Karen Millen to photograph her interior design. We met when I was photographing for one of her charities and we began to discuss the possibilities of producing a catalogue of the interior design work in her two homes. It was a very open brief; she wanted images of the highest quality to showcase her design ideas in a proposed coffee table book. I had a limited experience of shooting interiors at that point and so the entire production was a steep learning curve. The project was shot on a Hasselblad H1D with Broncolor lights and, looking at the images now, they are among the strongest in my portfolio. Interiors have become the fastest growing area in my commercial work."
Rikard is currently preparing a solo exhibition of his Flowers series in Whitstable's Gallery 3 at the Horsebridge Centre. He is also in discussions with Paul Taylor, author of 'Dutch Flower Painting, 1600-1720' (Yale press), about writing an introduction to the works.