You’ve shot images for more than 60 years. What keeps you going?
During the ’60s, I was working at a large company as an industrial photographer. It was my first job as a photographer and I was married at the time. My wife was on a trip to Copenhagen and I was back in Stockholm with our first-born son, Peter. When she returned home, I’d been fired from my job. I spent too much time on my own projects and I think they took notice of that at some point. Since then, I’ve been doing my work with no interference. It was convenient that I was let go.
I always develop my photographs myself. There isn’t one that I haven’t shot and processed on my own. I’ve never had an assistant. It is the necessary precondition of my work. If it wasn’t for that, I wouldn’t be a photographer today.
It seems that the dominant motif of your work has shifted from people to places over the years.
I used to get up in the morning, put the Leica in my bag and head into town to shoot the people I passed by. It wasn’t a problem to take pictures in the street back then; people didn’t take notice of the camera or change their appearance when I took their photo. But people became more reluctant to have their photo taken during the ’70s and I didn’t want to be an inconvenience, so I decided to shoot something else instead. I’ve never been much for posed photography.
How do you go about deciding what to capture?
Now and then, I get on the subway into town with an old friend who’s also a photographer. We walk around the city and photograph the things that we see. Without becoming too literary and overthinking the scope of my work, it is as simple as this: When I see an opportunity to shoot a photo that could become mine, I press the shutter.
Do you think you’ll ever stop taking photographs?
Hell no. Never. I live in the house that my parents bought in 1950. My son is helping me set up a new darkroom in the basement and it was in that exact basement that I developed my first photographs back in the ’50s. I have a responsibility to myself to keep making photographs. Photography is an immense and crucial part of my life.