Rikard Landberg is a documentary photographer from Sweden. What immediately caught our attention in his work was his approach to everyday life situations, transforming ordinary moments into extraordinary photographs, which tell stories.
Thank you, Rikard, for all your availability for this interview. Could you start by introducing yourself to our readers?
Thank you. My name is Rikard Landberg, born in 1986 in Sweden. I am a trained documentary videographer and editor who switched from video to still photography. Like so many others, I wanted to make a living as a photographer, but the assignments I got were quite boring and almost made me lose interest in photography. Nowadays, I only photograph things that speak to me. I’m a father of two, and my family gives me the most inspiration at the moment.
Looking at your portfolio, we think it would be difficult to catalogue the type of photography you do, to define your work in one genre. In short, we could say that, through photography, you document your daily life. Do you agree?
I think my pictures are a mix between street, documentary and daily life. Sometimes I want to tell a story, sometimes I want to save a moment, and sometimes I just want to capture something beautiful. It’s not important to be able to divide my pictures into different genres, but I want my pictures to work together.
We understand that you have used different camera systems and currently you have more than one camera, right? Could you describe the history of cameras you have had in the past, as well as your current camera and lens setup?
I was an analog photographer for a very long time. I only used Leica M cameras, an Olympus Mju II, and at the end, a Ricoh GR1s. I loved not being able to see the results right away, especially when I traveled. There is something magical about taking a picture and then fantasizing about how it turned out and if I really chose the right moment. I had to learn how to read the light and do everything right in the camera because of the limited post-processing options.
When I finally took the step to digital, I bought a brand new Leica M-E. A wonderful camera but I could never really get over the fact that it was so expensive. I was too scared it would be stolen or broken. That’s when I rediscovered Ricoh GR (now digital). Something about the sensor in that camera made the images look like a pushed film at higher ISOs, especially in black and white. Something that most people saw as a flaw, was what I loved most about the camera. Of course, I also liked the size of the camera.
I have since tested several different Fuji models, mostly because of their film simulations. I thought I would love them and they look fantastic, but… Everyone who uses Fuji uses the same simulations, which results in most photographers getting exactly the same look.
I kept searching for cameras that gave a similar dirty analog feel at higher ISO as the GR. In the summer of 2020, I tried a PEN-F and fell in love with the files’ look. At the end of August 2020, I bought my first Olympus. I bought an E-M1 MarkII with a 17mm lens, and I absolutely loved it. Many people would probably never use a M4/3 camera above ISO800, I rarely use it below ISO800. I also like the 4:3 format. It’s my main camera now.
My current setup is:
• Olympus E-M1 MarkII + 17mm F1.8 and 25mm F1.8.
• Ricoh GRIII
Checking your Instagram feed, it is impossible not to notice your peculiar passion for the Ricoh GR. Could you describe what is so special about the GR series that made it a cult camera worldwide? And in what kind of situations do you go for the Olympus instead of Ricoh?
As I mentioned above, there is something with the files at higher ISO, especially on the GR and GRII. The GRIII is good, but I really like the predecessors more. The small size is a big plus. Full press Snap focus is perhaps the best feature of a camera ever. But the most important thing is the look of the files. I mostly use the E-M1 Mark II at the moment, but when I want to be a bit more discreet, I bring the GR.
Oddly enough, Olympus never released a 14mm (28mm FF equiv.) prime lens for the M43 system. Used to this angle of view in your Ricoh, do you believe that this is the lens Olympus lacks to appeal to street photographers looking for a compact, fast, robust camera and, there it is, with a 28mm lens?
I think that 28mm is a tricky focal length. It’s a little too wide to be an all-rounder, and it’s a little too tight to be a really good wide-angle. I’m not really that fond of 28mm, it was simply something that came with the Ricoh GR. I learned to like it. I think 35mm and 21mm are better focal lengths for most street photographers really. If the GR would come with a 35mm I would buy it right away.
We have been following your work for quite some time, which we greatly admire because you manage to make stunning photographs from ordinary situations and locations. And we think it’s crucial to emphasize this aspect to our readers, especially in the present times and under this pandemic crisis. To make good Photography, it’s unnecessary to travel to the other side of the world or visit epic places. What’s your opinion about this, and could you share your “secret” to finding extraordinary photos around your own neighbourhood?
Thank you very much! In the beginning, I needed to travel or do something special to be inspired. I think this is common among many photographers, especially now when the most important thing is chasing likes on social media. I mean, who wants to see our dull everyday lives when you can look at exotic cities and beautiful beaches?
When my children were born, I could no longer travel or do projects as often as I used to. Instead, I decided to treat my life as a documentary project. Trying to find interesting things and stories in everyday life the same way as when I travel or work on projects. Most of my photos in this article are just everyday life with my family. Remember to make pictures that speak to you. Don’t think about what everyone else is doing or what will give more likes and followers.
Regardless of the camera used, your work is extremely consistent. Could you tell us what software you use, and what is your post-processing workflow for converting your images to black and white?
My secret when it comes to post-processing is that I want to spend as little time as possible at the computer. I try to do as much as I can in-camera. High ISO (even in daylight) gives almost the same effect as pushing film. I always underexpose my photos to produce more noise/grain when I increase the exposure.
I use Lightroom Classic but don’t use any types of presets. I import my Raw files directly to black and white, I never see them in color. I use curves and dodge and burn, that’s it. My look mostly comes from the way I set up my camera, high ISO and underexposed. It gives a fairly flat image but with clear contrasts. I like it.
To conclude, and in an exercise of pure speculation, what would be your ideal camera? Let us try guessing: an Olympus PEN series with a 17mm F1.8 pancake fixed lens and an integrated EVF – something like a fusion of the Fuji X100V with the Ricoh GRIII?
A pretty good guess, but it’s easier than that. My dream camera is an E-M1 with a monochrome sensor without a back screen and no play button. Pure and simple. Olympus, (OM Digital Solutions Corporation) if you are reading this, please make this camera!
“My name is Rikard Landberg, born in 1986 in Sweden. I am a trained documentary videographer and editor who switched from video to still photography.”