Introduce yourself!

I was born and raised in Stockholm and its suburbs. I’m the eldest of five siblings, each time I’ve got a new sibling my parents chose to move further out to the outskirts of Stockholm to afford a bigger space. We got further and further away from the city center…

When I was twenty five years old, I bought my first apartment and moved back to the city. I’ve always loved the energy that cities provide. Full of impressions, expressions and it feeds my curiosity. I work as a film director, write feature film scripts and spends a lot of my time taking photos on the streets. 

When did your passion for photography start?

It started out of the desire to work with a form of expression that was only my own and not depending on other peoples judgement. Like a creative outlet that gave me a kind of opportunity for creative expression and personal satisfaction that corporate job could not provide.

I’ve always been an observer. Observed how people, talk, walk, how they dress and behave in different situations. This has been something I’ve always done, observing people, but I’ve never really understood what to do with it.

When I take pictures, time and space disappear, it´s like meditation and I’m in the present.

So when I started photographing people in public environments, there was a purpose to this trait, I was able to transform it into an artistic way of expressing it while I thought it was great fun at the same time. It gave me a lot of satisfaction. When I take pictures, time and space disappear, it´s like meditation and I’m in the present. It has become a sort of an addiction that I can’t be without many days before abstinence kicks in.

Aside from photography (that arrived later in my life) I’ve always needed to be in touch with the world of ideas and creativity to keep myself going. I really like how one’s photos can be influenced as much by a painting, a movie or a book, as by the work of other photographers. My father worked as a theatre director.

From early age I joined him at the repetitions with the actors. I think this experience made a huge impression on me. To see a piece of art slowly come together and in the end hopefully become something great. No matter what, to enjoy the journey towards the end result is the most rewarding thing. 

Where did the idea for Stockholm Street Colors come from? How long was it in the making?

I had a production company called Folkefilm together with Filip Nilsson and Tobias Bergman. The Folkefilm office was located in the old town in Stockholm, close to the Royal castle. At lunch breaks I brought my camera and went up to the castle to take photos. I started to photograph tourists visiting the castle. They came from all over the world, many of them dressed in fantastic colors. The feeling was very international. Very un-Stockholmish as most Stockholmers dresses in black. 

I ended up not coming back to the office after the lunch break, instead staying at the castle and taking pictures. The work with the book took about four years. This is my first photo book and I learned a lot during the process. More to come. 

I started to photograph tourists visiting the castle. They came from all over the world, many of them dressed in fantastic colors. The feeling was very international. Very un-Stockholmish as most Stockholmers dresses in black. 

How would you describe your photography style?

I am interested in ordinary people in everyday situations who inadvertently become an integral part of their surroundings. My twenty years experience as a film director has taught me to see the street as a stage where I can direct juxtapositions and relationships between colours, patterns, buildings and people.

In this way, I’m also a director as a street photographer. But without all the technical fuss and a big team behind my back. Only by observing and pay attention to moments that feels absurd, extraordinary and real.

To get into that state of mind I need to go out exclusively for shooting, knowing that I’ll have time and no distractions. That’s when I enjoy it most, but I also shoot while on my daily routines, on my way somewhere or at home. Being constantly alert has become a habit that I like, because it makes me more aware of the moment and like any meditation exercise, it focuses me on the present.

I’m a true observer trying to capture situations in the moment. Situations that never come back. My style is very time consuming but is very rewarding when I manage to take a picture that I like. When this happens it’s worth all the endless walks without me being able to take a single picture for a whole day. Or sometimes several days.

Photography aside, you’ve also created a number of shorts including ‘The Last Marriage’ – Can we expect more shorts?

Yes. I love the short format. Where everything has to be as precise as possible. No redundancy. I also really like that you are able to tell a lot in a short time. No dead meat.

I’ve done three shorts based on collage by Jan Stenmark. I love his absurd humour and would love to make another short film based on one or several of his collages. Maybe even a feature film based on his collage. Would be great fun.

Johan Holmström, who wrote The Last Marriage, is working on a feature film script of The Last Marriage. Feels very promising. Fingers crossed. 

What’s next for Johan?

I’m writing a very personal screenplay about a transperson called Andreas Bruce. He worked as a male clerk on a farm at the island of Gotland in the early 19th century. Bruce was biologically female, but this was accepted and not openly spoken of until he got pregnant with inspector Lars Nyström. It’s a story about identity, to be true to yourself. I will also be the director. 

In terms of street photography I’m working on a photobook about my neighbourhood Hornstull. I also planning to make a sequel to Stockholm Streetcolours.

Find out more about Johan’s work at here website here www.johantappert.com

Interview by Marc Harries / Photo Credit: Johan Tappert