Thobias Malmberg is one of those young talents who understand photography as a language to know their world, and themselves, better. Born in Stockholm, this 25 years old artist has become a genius in the art of taking self portraits and showing, through them, a very sensual and honest diary about his own body and experience. The strong sensuality, the suggestive nudity and the fainted lights on every single picture drive us to his privacy, almost as if we were part of it. Fascinated by his work, we talked with him about polaroids, his particular style and why the human body is so important in his artwork.
It’s totally obvious you have a gift for taking pictures. When did you start with it?
I got my first camera when I was 8 years old, but before that I had already been using my parents’ cameras. I was obsessed with capturing the world around me. I also did some still–life and portraits back then. Then I lost it for some years, when the transition from analog to digital happened – I didn’t know how to connect with it. In my late teens I started to appreciate it, but now I’m back on analog again...
Beyond photography, you also draw and try to mix different techniques in the same piece. How do you define yourself: as a photographer, a plastic artist...?
I think I’m a painter at heart. It is always easier to let your mind roam free on a piece of paper with coal or oil than with taking photographs. Photography is a cold medium to work with, just press a button and you'll have something to look at without using your imagination. Sometimes the combination of photography and painting can be truly beautiful.
There is something in your work that reminds me of the sensuality of Robert Mapplethorpe mixed with the romantic vision of Sarah Moon. How do you describe your pictures?
There is no motion in my photographs, but there is a certain calmness and warmth, and also softness. Sometimes I get very close up, and other times quite far away from the object. It depends on the relationship to the matter, really.
The extraordinary Dash Snow made from polaroids his hallmark, I get the same feeling when I see your work. Why polaroids? What do they offer to you, as an artist?
It is more honest than digital photography. With all the retouching and colour correcting and filters, it takes the focus away from the moment of shooting. You only get one shot with polaroids, you have to think one step ahead, and it is instantaneous, so for an impatient person like me it's perfect!
Your pictures have an amazing sensibility, they are strong but delicate somehow. What are you trying to convey with this atmosphere?
The honesty. I’m very bad at directing, but I always have a clear vision in my mind, so everything has to come naturally. And maybe that is what’s shining through. I almost never plan when I’m going to shoot something, the moment just arrives in front of me and sometimes I get it, and sometimes it just slips away. It’s that brief moment of honesty. The people I shoot always have a fragile and vulnerable look. But there is also a calmness and a seriousness to them. You can never be sure.
Human body becomes very important in your series. Is it the perfect inspiration source when you shoot a new series of pictures? Is there a sexual element in your art?
I get very inspired by the human body, both in a sexual and an objectifying way. It’s such an amazing thing to look at! But I find the line between pornographic and ‘arty’ photographs very blurry, and I don’t know and don’t care where it goes. We are the most vulnerable when we are naked, but it's also our most natural state. And that’s what interests me!
There is an idea I’ve always liked about artists’ self portraits: they are a way to understand someone better, through their own vision. Why is the self portrait so present in your artwork?
I prefer to do my art alone, so becoming the subject myself comes naturally. All photographs become like little stories themselves, like a diary almost, and who can tell my stories better than myself?
You have tones of pictures and I feel taking them is somehow a very natural action for you. How often do you take your camera out with you?
I prefer to shoot indoors in a controlled environment, and the camera is always ready on its tripod. Sometimes I shoot outside, but then it's quite planned. But I have missed so many great moments of light, and I don’t bring my camera with me as much as I want.
Sometimes a great moment or idea happens, and I only have my iPhone. Then I only think how great it would look on polaroid, and don’t even care to capture it digitally…
If you could choose someone to shoot, who would your dream model be?
Anyone who is, or isn’t, afraid to show a fragile side to the camera.