“Freedom,” Bjorn B. replies when I ask him what photography means to him. He’s is an internationally successful photographer. He goes by Bjorn B., prefers just Bjorn, and his last name is open to interpretation. He’s easy to find on his website Bjornphotography.com. Originally from Southern California, Bjorn is primarily a photographer in Los Angeles. He has recently begun traveling and photographing other parts of the world. With headshots as a specialty, he’s had his portraits published in newspapers and magazines and placed in galleries. He’s currently lending his talent to Australia. I caught up with him by phone despite the fact that he was fighting a cold and about to travel from Sydney to Melbourne. One needs only listen to the comedic outgoing voicemail message that he leaves for his clients to hear or the manner in which he approaches his subject to see that he’s an eccentric, fun and professional artist all at once.
“The back of someone’s head,” is the matter-of-fact answer that Bjorn delivers when I ask about the first thing he photographed when he arrived in Australia for the first time. He had just purchased a new camera and was so eager to try it out that he took the first opportunity he could.
Bjorn had been in Australia only a couple of weeks when I caught up with him so I was eager to ask about his initial experiences in the country. “It’s been really cool. When I first got here, I got locked out of the apartment. I got here, and the door locked by itself. I opened the windows. I had put my jacket on a table, and the keys were right on top of it. I reached in with my right arm, which should be my dominant arm, and then my left. Well, now I know my left arm is actually longer than my right arm. If I had pulled it the wrong way, it would have slid off the table. I was so scared the keys were going to fall off, but they didn’t. I was able to grab the keys and get back in.”
Bjorn seems to be such a free spirit. He is free of the ego attached to many successful photographers. In fact, when asked about his own favorite photographers, he could only reply, “I was very interested in photography growing up, but I don’t know that I’ve ever wanted someone to say, ‘Oh, Bjorn took that,’ and I don’t know that I’ve ever approached it that way. I think that maybe photographers get set in their ways, and then they become a characterization of that great work.”
I then had to ask how he got interested in photography, and it falls all the way back to an elective course in high school that a school counselor helped him to find. Bjorn added, “I don’t know what I’d do without it. I don’t know what I’d be or where I’d be. It’s a very cool thing when you find that. I’m lucky as all hell. I’ve been taking pictures ever since.”
Enthusiasm rushes through the tones Bjorn uses whenever photography is mentioned. As a passion and a work, he spoke about what inspires him in his craft. “Telling stories, whether they’re something I’m trying to tell or something I’m trying to capture. When it comes down to it, you’re probably not seeing what I’m seeing, but it’s still the same image. It’s open to everyone. I don’t think I’ve ever had someone see a picture and point out what I was looking at when I took it. That always intrigues me. As far as inspired, it’s maybe that. There are so many moments that pass by that people don’t see.”
Bjorn seems to be a bit of a contradiction. He doesn’t really use social networking websites to market his photography, although he advises his clients to do so. He appears to be madly in love with the art of photography, yet he also seems to have a light-hearted attitude regarding it, able to laugh at himself easily. For instance, when asked about whether he enjoyed taking the photograph or seeing the processed print more, he exclaimed, “You know, when you go to a theme park or something, and you’re just having fun, or at a party, and everyone’s drunk and wild. You know…then you get the posts on facebook. And you relive it. Who’s to say that’s not more fun? Being with your friend on the computer and talking about the night, that’s sometimes more fun than the night itself because that’s when you remember things.”
I just had to ask the stereotypical photographer’s question. I wanted to know if he had a favorite photograph. He seemed to be frustratedly patient on the topic, “I think, to be quite honest with you, they’re my favorite as they come out. That’s a tough question. It’s like babies. Who’s your favorite child? If you answer that…you know…shame on you.” He just laughs when I ask what he thinks of paparazzi photography and if it hurts legitimate photography.
I ask Bjorn how photography has changed his life, and he contemplates before responding, “I think the better question would be what would my life be without photography. I’d hate to think about that.”
After speaking with him and having access to hundreds of his photographs, if I had to sum up Bjorn in one word as an artist and person, it would be as a storyteller. Each of his photographs do tell a story, and it’s one that’s always captivating.