Filmmaker, Swedish native, and childhood friend of Wax’s Creative Director Steffy, Christoffer Sevholt, lends his passion and expertise to working on productions for Sweden’s answer to the BBC, SVT, and post production agency Shoot&Post.
Unsurprisingly this has translated into an intrigue for and understanding about the chameleon-like nature of Swedish landscape, and its role in Swedish cinema.
The ensuing shoot is the product of a blustery, blue-skyed day spent clambering, camera-in-hand, over cliffs in Klädesholmen, an old fishing village on the island Tjörn, off the west coast of Sweden.
Can you tell us a bit about your background in film and photography?
My father was really influential. He worked in film and TV-production when I was growing up and opened a lot of doors for me, without being pushy. I would borrow his digital camera when I was a teenager to shoot my friends skateboarding and then edit the film and copy it to VHS-cassettes.
I went on to study journalism and media production at university and found the editing room to be a very inspiring place. From there I became really interested in documentaries.
I’ve always been a huge advocate for film and cinema as forms of cultural expression and education. I can watch documentaries for hours. A film experience should always affect you some how – then you know it´s good.
Where did the inspiration for this shoot come from?
Steffy and I wanted to explore the role of Swedish landscape in cinema. I watched Bergman´s 1966 masterpiece Persona as preparation, and suggested Steffy come home to Sweden so that I could take her to my Mother’s summer cabin at Tjörn. We both grew up on the west coast so I knew Steffy was familiar with the landscape, but Tjörn is something special – just like the back drop of Fårö in Persona.
What is it about the way the landscape is shot in Persona that you find so appealing?
The cinematography in Persona is extraordinary; from the first frame to the last. Bergman uses the landscape to add weight to dramatic scenes, and to reflect the increasingly destructive relationship between the two female protagonists.
Fårö’s scenery is both seductive and ominous – almost schizophrenic. You can see this juxtaposition in the characters too.
Was the outcome of the shoot as expected, or did it evolve organically?
It definitely evolved. I think it´s important to have an open mind.
I was initially inspired by the shape of the cliffs, and trying to capture the lines. But I ended up framing less ocean and sky, gravitating towards a more abstract feeling – focusing on the shadows, patterns and textures of the cliffs, which made the pictures feel more alive.
I wanted to see things I see every day with new eyes and be reminded of what makes the west coast of Sweden so distinguishable. The landscape itself inspired me.
Was there anything you borrowed from Bergman’s film and applied to this shoot?
When shooting nature, I like to work with deep depth of field. Also shadows. They give flat images a sense of depth. The same is true of a black and white filter. I also added grain to the photos to give them the feel of an old film.
Although the aim wasn’t to emulate Bergman’s film, how does Tjörn compare to Fårö aesthetically?
Fårö is more barren than Tjörn and the terrain is flatter. Tjörn is known for it´s archipelago-like landscape, with a coastline covered with high and low cliffs. Perhaps it sounds boring and naked, but it´s really beautiful. From afar the cliffs seem bare and lifeless but up close they’re decorated with lichen, which creates patterns and textures.
There is also something different about the way the cliffs merge with the sea. In Tjörn they are more round and soft, rather than sharp and edgy as in Fårö.
It’s difficult to walk the coastline of Tjörn. We had a real workout climbing and jumping around the cliffs on the shoot.
What do you think makes Sweden such a captivating place to shoot?
Last summer I worked on a French-Swedish film called Into the woods, which was filmed in the deep pine woods of Sweden in a place called Dalsland and, like Bergman’s Persona, explores duality.
What can appear to be open, free and delightful can easily switch to be dark and claustrophobic.
It’s the versatility and changeability of the landscape and the weather that makes Sweden such a mesmerising place to shoot.
How does it compare to other places you’ve seen?
I experienced something similar in Argentina. I went backpacking with a friend through South America a couple of years ago and was really inspired by the Argentinian landscape. It was not what I expected at all. We went to a small town in the south called Bariloche which was like a Swedish alp village, surrounded by mountains, rich nature, cold air and wooden houses. On our way back to Buenos Aires, we rented a car and drove through a big lake district area with thick woods, mountains and rivers. It almost felt like home. One night we sat down with some locals from the area who told us about their urban legends; stories about trolls living in the woods and mountains – the same stories that we have in Sweden.
There is a certain mysticism surrounding wooded areas that draws people in. Especially film makers.