photographer lina scheynius will make you see fruit and flowers differently
She reflects on how small changes in her life impacted her photography, and a new book.
Since 2008, Swedish photographer Lina Scheynius has self-published a book a year, and in each, shared her poetic images of ordinary life. Mundane moments, in her gaze, become mysterious—a black-and-white photo of wildflowers can seem voyeuristic, and a portrait of her naked torso, bathed in smoky light with a nuanced color palette, feels sensitive. But in contrast to 08, which was more melancholy, her newest release, 09, is her "happiest." "I think it is a reflection of how I felt when I was putting it together," Lina muses. "I made some changes in the last year in my life." She started meditating and stopped spending so much time online. She eschewed Instagram in favor of reading and cooking more, and grew plants on her balcony. "Very simple things like that," she adds. These simple things set the mood for 09, a joyful addition to her oeuvre. In one of my favorite images from the book, Lina floats, arms stretched out, in an iridescent ocean. Lina's favorite, however, is of a stalky flower glowing with light. "It was part of my [recent] exhibition in Zurich," she explains, "and even though there was a room full of my work, this little flower kept grabbing my attention. It's a hopeful image." Below, Lina discusses her move from one side of the lens to the other, how she feels about her past publications, her body and aging, and her new book, which is available here.
Why did you decide to stop modeling and start taking photos? Was it emancipating to photograph yourself and decide how you want to look rather than have other people define how you should look?
It was! I was really tired of the glamour and, at first, I got inspired by the fashion work of Juergen Teller and Corinne Day. I didn't really know any art photographers at the time, and my references came from fashion magazines. But then I started hanging out in the photography section in bookshops and got even less interested in fashion photography. I fell in love with Japanese photography. It was actually quite a slow process moving from one side of the lens to the other. For many years, I just did it on my own and only showed the results to a handful of friends, and then one day, I had the courage to join Flickr and then there was no going back.
Why, in 2008, did you decide that you wanted to publish a book a year?
I had been in touch with a book publisher, but it was slow and nothing came out of it, so I decided to try to do it on my own. I already had a bit of a following online so I thought there might be a market for the book. I didn't know I would make as many as I have when I started. I guess I dreamt of it since I called it 01, but I can't quite remember.
You've said that you started keeping a written journal as a child, because it was an outlet for your shyness. Do you take photographs, and publish them in books, for the same reason?
It's so hard for me to say why I take photographs. A simple answer is that I do it because I love and enjoy it. But sometimes, it's really painful, and then that explanation doesn't hold up.
How is it painful?
It's painful in the sense that I set up really high expectations on the results, at times, and can't live up to them.
Do you still keep a written diary? Can you read the last sentence of your last entry?
I do… And here you go, "Thinking about buying a sofa." Not that interesting today I am afraid.
Have you always felt comfortable with your body? Or was that something you developed over time?
I don't know if I ever felt comfortable with it. It's definitely getting better and better as time goes by, but aging kind of scares me.
I think aging would be less scary if we saw more images of older women celebrating themselves. Don't you think it will be great if all these young photographers, like you, continue sharing self-portraits as they age? I think it's so important, and could have such an impact…
I do intend to keep photographing myself and keep sharing. I think that would be great. It's not really me looking older that's the scariest bit, though, it's the health slowly decaying—even now, I can't keep the same pace I could in my 20s, jet lag hits me harder, etcetera.
How would you describe the mood of 09?
It's the happiest book I made in a while. Very colorful; makes me smile.
What do you think when you look back at 01? How have you evolved as an artist, and as a woman, since then?
I like it. I like the sense of play in it. There is only one book that I made that I don't like, but I won't say which one. And even that one is special to me in a way and has its place in the series. It's hard for me to say how I have evolved, but I have probably grown up. In some ways, I think photography matters less to me now than it did then. I got very obsessed for a while.
Text Zio Baritaux
Photography Lina Scheynius, from her book 09