DPP: How did one of your most well-known series, and one that ended up in a book Mirror, come about?
Ladefoged: The year I joined Magnum, I had to come up with new ideas. I went to the Danish championships for bodybuilders and got permission to shoot backstage. Since I was freelance, I went back to Politiken and pitched them the story about bodies and narcissism and voyeurism, not a story about who was the best bodybuilder. I was looking for this more weird or abstract world backstage behind the scenes. They agreed. After three years of shooting at the event, I felt I wasn’t really moving on, so I started doing color portraits. Between portraits, I started shooting some video and ended up asking for and getting the money from the Danish Film Institute to do a film.
DPP: It’s interesting that one of your earliest projects, on prostitution, involved nudity and the body, and then you did the series on bodybuilders.
Ladefoged: Since I was so into sports when I was young, I think that stories about the body are very important to me. It took me eight years to finish this project because the Danish championships take place once a year.
DPP: Because of your love of sports and, in particular, soccer, it must have been a great assignment for you to photograph Lionel Messi for Time magazine. How did you shoot it?
Ladefoged: I knew I would have very little time with him. I arrived in Barcelona and rented strobes and bought white and black backgrounds. My assistant and I set up a little studio in a room at the training compound. When he came in, we were ready to go.
Shooting the same thing all the time bores me. I come from a newspaper background where you have to cover a variety of assignments.
DPP: How did you learn to work with strobes?
Ladefoged: We used strobes very little at the newspapers. When I became a freelance photographer, I decided to teach myself because I wanted to be more of a magazine photographer. Now I work with Profoto. My Mirror series portraits were made with strobes. The black-and-white reportage images for the series were made with an off-camera handheld flash.
DPP: Your diversity really shows itself in the fact that you photographed Justin Bieber and the Pope.