We've gotten to know student and photographer Ulf Leide on what it’s like to follow one's passion and create a life out of pictures. With works highly inspired by cinema and personal experiences, Ulf's young and promising oeuvre shows how much he's willing to fulfill his dream. His current signature style comes clean, composed, and cinematic as if his photographs were taken straight out of a blockbuster. He tends to lean on analogous color palettes, making each of his scenes as atmospheric as they can be.
We managed to sit and brew a bit of conversation with the Stockholm-based photographer as he shares his story, present works, and plans for the future.
Hi Ulf, welcome to Lomography Magazine! Firstly, tell us about your photography. When did you begin your camera journey?
Thanks! I’m so thankful for this opportunity! I started shooting around the age of 17-18, probably because my twin brother became very interested in photography and I watched him do it. Initially, I was mainly interested in shooting videos, maybe because I wanted to have my own thing and not just do what my brother did. Obviously, I’d still shoot still images from time to time, but mainly on my iPhone, just to document things I was doing.
My real interest for photography began when Instagram was introduced and I started following other photographers. It’s only recently that I’ve started to take it more seriously. As I’ve been shooting more stills I’ve come to realize that almost everything I learn while shooting stills can be applied to shooting videos. Especially with film, only having 36 shots per roll makes you put more thought into every frame, which teaches you a lot about how exposure, timing and how to compose your images. My photography has always just been a hobby, but I would love to be able to make a living producing images.
Right now, film is considered an old photographic medium. When, why, and how did you start using film?
I think the first time I tried using film was around 2011, when my brother loaned me his Olympus XA. I didn’t know anything about film or camera settings so the roll didn’t turn out very good. Maybe that deterred me a bit, because I didn’t try it again until several years later (maybe 2015) when my brother sold me one of his Olympus Mju II’s. I think I only shot one roll with that before putting it down. Probably because I was really poor at the time and couldn’t justify the cost of shooting on film.
I didn’t pick it up again until like early last year, probably because one of my close friends starting shooting analogue. I shot one roll, which turned out great, and I was instantly hooked. Unfortunately, I dropped that camera in a lake not long after that so my shooting was put on hold for a few months until about a year ago when I bought a Nikon FM2. That’s when I started shooting film more consistently and have been shooting at a pretty steady pace since then.
You shoot with street and portraiture in a very cinematic style. May you tell us more about your aesthetic?
I think the cinematic aesthetic comes from my interest in film. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve always been more interested in shooting video than stills, and still am. My ambition is to work in the film industry in some capacity. I can’t really say that I watch a ton of movies but I follow a lot of filmmakers and cinematographers and try to learn as much from them as possible. The cinematic aspect isn’t really something I think about when taking pictures or do on purpose. I just take pictures of things I find visually interesting, and those things happen to render cinematic pictures because that’s the type of imagery I prefer.
How about fellow photographers or artists as influences, do you have any of them?
On Instagram, I sometimes get comments and DMs from people telling me how they like my style, which always confuses me because I don’t consider myself to have a style. I don’t know that one necessarily needs a style, but either way, I don’t think I’ve been shooting long enough to develop one. I’m still experimenting a lot and trying to find out what I like, which I think shows in my Instagram feed. When I look at the feeds of other, more experienced photographers they’re usually more consistent, in terms of color palette and subject matter, which I guess is the natural progression as you shoot more. That being said I’m not entirely sure it’s desirable either, as I think it can be rather limiting.
Anyways… Regarding what influences how and what I shoot I think it’s a combination of everything I experience around me (duh). It’s hard to mention any one thing or person but I know for sure that I’m greatly influenced by other photographers and filmmakers on Instagram. I constantly see imagery that makes me question everything I’ve done so far and rethink the way I shoot.
We really love the modern yet filmic atmosphere of your work. Could you share with us your personal techniques or hacks, if you have any?
Oh man, I wish I had hacks to share, haha. The way I shoot is very straightforward. One thing is I always make sure to have a small point and shoot with me wherever I go. You never know what you’re gonna run into.
If you could wine and dine with any photographer or artist, dead, alive or fictional, who would it be?
I’m not the most socially competent person so I can’t imagine a dinner alone with a stranger being anything else than awkward, and I don’t really have any idols either, but one person whose photography I really admire is a Swedish photographer called Gunnar Smoliansky, so if I had to choose one person it would be him. If you haven’t seen his stuff you need to check him out right now.
What does an ordinary, non-photography day look like for Ulf Leide?
Wow… I just realized it’s not very interesting so I’ll try to keep it short. I’m still in school (studying media technology) so a normal day typically involves school-related stuff like lectures or just reading/studying on my own. Other than that some of my normal activities are spending time with my girlfriend, hanging out with friends, reading/watching videos on photography and cinematography. I also like being outside a lot. If I can I get out of the city, if not I just ride around on my bike.
What does the future have in store for photographer Ulf Leide?
Until now I’ve mostly been almost exclusively shooting one-off shots without any common theme, but recently I’ve been thinking a lot about getting into shooting a series. I don’t have any immediate plans but I do have one idea I’ve been thinking about for several years actually. I have this weird fascination with apartment building courtyards, entryways and staircases, that probably stems from living in a single-family home my entire life. For example, the idea of a very nondescript building hiding a really beautiful, lush courtyard. There’s just something so intriguing about it that’s very hard to explain.
Ro see more of Ulf's movie-like photographs, check out his Instagram. All rights reserved to Ulf Leide.