Today, April 8, is International Romani Day. Jörgen Johansson has documented the lives of the Roma in Sweden since in 2013. Photo: Jörgen Johansson / Kontinent
Photojournalist Jörgen Johansson´s portfolio of work gives a voice to the silenced and a stage to the disenfranchised. When he removes the camera strap from around his neck, it is quickly replaced by a guitar. This connection to music affords him the insider status to capture musicians from a very unique perspective.
You have quite a lot of different bodies of work. Could you please tell us about the reportage on Carlos?
Hamburg is part of my childhood as I spent the first year of my life there. Hamburg Hauptbahnhof has always been a place that has made me stand still for a moment. I’ve always returned here throughout the years as though I was looking for something. Then I met Carlos about a two years ago. He was born to a prostitute mother. He grew up in Connecticut, USA but has returned to Hamburg. It’s a story about a man who lives on the edge, a man with a serious heart condition, a man who calls himself a ‘survivor’. It is very important to do reportages like this, i.e. reflect people like Carlos’ personal everyday stories. In fact, for me it is just as important as documenting the situation of the Roma or the plight of the refugees from Syria.
Where do you get your driving force from? How did you get started in photography?
It is difficult to remember, it was so long ago. I started off as a music reporter. Then I bought myself camera, and someone on the editorial desk asked me whether I didn’t want to become a photographer. So I guess it went from there.
About your music career, you played with Bruce Springsteen. Can you describe what it was like?
In 2012, I played with Bruce on stage in his hometown, Asbury Park, New Jersey, and it was amazing, a memory for life. I’ve known Bruce for a few years and I’ve visited his hometown before. Then in 2012, I was invited to play at Ashbury Park music festival. I ended up playing five nights in a row.
I’m really intrigued about your Feet Project. Please tell us more about it?
It started out as a fun, accidental thing and has now grown into a proper project. I’m really excited about it and it’s just been decided that the series will be shown at Hovdala Slott in May 2017. The plan now is to travel around Skåne and show the land in a different way. The idea is to convey the beauty of it and that we, humankind, need to take care of it.
Could you explain a little about your reportage on Fabian? How did that come about?
It was purely by chance. I was covering an open water swimming event at a little lake outside of Hästveda, Skåne. I remember it being really windy that day and I was photographing the general event. As the competition was about to start, we noticed a very determined young man, Fabian, struggling to get into the water with the help of his family. (Fabian, 14 years old, was born with spina bifida and is therefore wheelchair bound.) I was drawn to the story of not just Fabian, but his entire family, being there helping him. I asked his mother if I might tell his story and they agreed.
How do you find your reportage ideas?
A lot of people get in touch with me asking if I’d be interested in their story. They might have seen my previous documentary work and they appreciate my approach, curiosity and the way I depict a personal story. In the case of Fabian, I approached his mother asking if I could document their story.
After years of working as a photojournalist internationally and working as picture editor at Skånska Dagbladet, I no longer feel the need to travel widely to do stories. I have so much here in Hässleholm and I’m interested in local personal stories.
Is there a connection between your stories, a common thread running through them all?
Yes, I believe so. I’m drawn to personal everyday stories. In the case of Fabian, I was interested in documenting the life, journey, struggles and joys of the whole family.
I started out as a reporter but my dream has always been to do documentary photography as it allows me to do these vital personal everyday stories.
What are you working on right now?
Tomorrow I’m going to Brussels for a photo job. Right now I’m driving to do a story on the first local female football team in Röke.
View more of Jörgens work here: