Monday, March 3, 2008
Bo Egestroem - Danish Modern
Bo Egestroem's undeniable drama and intensity recall the work of Peter Lindbergh and Herb Ritts. How does he master the elusive fashion moment?
Egestroem set about replicating the work he had admired in high-fashion magazines. Yet, as hard as he tried, he just couldn't garner its elusive look. Thinking it was an obscure film stock that gave the images their specific look, Egestroem set about shooting with every plausible stock, but with no success.
Realizing it was less emulsion and more technique that created distinctive looks, Egestroem decided to take a step back. He began shooting black-and-white and read Ansel Adams, devouring his methodology on the Zone System. It was a move that enabled Egestroem to control his images for the very first time.
“Many photographers out there today have no idea what the Zone System is, but I couldn't have asked for more at that point in my career,” he explains. “I could control all of my images in the darkroom. I think that kind of control is a big advantage for anyone before they get into digital photography because they have the understanding they need to get the best shot. It made me a better photographer for sure.”
But Egestroem had yet to master color. Uncovering a private photography school, he continued to study. “Luckily, the teacher was a technical genius and into the hands-on skill aspect of photography,” he says. “It really got me going. Suddenly, I had a tutor who could explain how to get all these different looks I needed.”
As his knowledge of photography continued to grow, so did his technique. Early attempts at cross-processing helped Egestroem develop a subtle, but unique look, as did developing accidents that created interesting colors in his work. It was a discovery that helped shape a signature style—one where subtle colors are added in the shadows of his photographs.
“I liked when you developed color wrong and things looked slightly different,” he explains. “There's a big gap between unwanted colorcast and pleasant colorcast but, for me, I liked it when the shadows became blue. That was a far subtler look than cross-processing, and I thought it was really nice. It's very tough to get digitally today because there are no happy accidents anymore. But I still like to work without black shadows. This is one of my looks.”
Egestroem's work soon began to appear in various magazines. He recalls one early pitch to a new magazine he felt could use his photography, touting the virtues of his own work to replace their less than efficient imagery.
“The cover of their magazine was awful, and I went straight in and told them that,” he says. “That was probably not the most efficient way of selling myself, but it worked because I shot for them a few months later. Then I had a few magazines with my work featured. Once that happens, you take your published work to modeling agencies and they give you girls to shoot. It took awhile, but it was worth the wait.”
Egestroem's move to digital wasn't the smoothest transition, but it immediately offered benefits versus film.
“The move was purely for economics,” he says. “Film was becoming expensive and, to be honest, scanning film was so damn time-consuming. When I made the transition, it went hand-in-hand with learning the art of retouching, so in many ways it was a good thing. In the beginning, I was trying to get the same look as I had with film, but I soon decided it would be better to start from scratch and create my own look over again. I did pull in elements of my old look from the film days, but basically practiced retouching until I had a new look again.”
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