A portrait project about diversity
Photographing 85 people and animals in two days sounds like a mission impossible. But it can be done, as Swedish photographer Emma Svensson has proven. She put the new LUMIX S 85mm f 1.8 lens to the test and was impressed: ‘It’s light, fast and sharp: exactly what I like!’ Because the focus in this project was on diversity, she decided to photograph a diversity of people and animals. She donated the revenues to a charitable project called 2helpingshands, which provides aid to the refugees in Moria.
‘I was asked to do a portrait project,’ says Emma. ‘Instead of just a small group, I wanted to do a large project focusing on diversity, and take photos of 30 to 40 people. We ended up with 85 people and animals, mostly dogs.’ It was one of Emma’s biggest projects for months. ‘This has been a difficult year because of Corona. We managed to photograph everyone in a safe way by not having too many people in the studio at once. I had 15 minutes for each portrait. I haven’t seen that many people in months. Photographing and meeting them all felt like a party!’
Photographing so many people means working fast. It’s something Emma, who began as a concert photographer, is used to. ‘I’m really good at working under pressure. At a concert, you only have a few songs to get the images you want. Fifteen minutes later, you have to send out the photos. When you’re photographing a celebrity you only get a few minutes alone with them.’
For this project, she contacted people she’s worked with before, reached out to others via social media and did a street casting.
‘I wanted to get people with different backgrounds, appearances and ages. We asked around 300 people to participate. A few days before the photo shoot, the government imposed another round of Covid-19 restrictions. Twenty people decided not to participate. It also meant we couldn’t photograph as many old people as I would have liked.’ The challenge with this project was getting enough variation in the portraits. ‘I wanted to make unique portraits, to really capture individual personalities. Most of the time I already knew when people walked into the studio what kind of photo I wanted to make. I talk a lot when I work, make people feel at ease, direct them, and give them feedback on how they’re posing. Combined with some nice music, that works really well. I chose a white dress code for this shoot. Some people asked me if their pet could be in the photo as well. We started with a white cat, and I also photographed some dogs.’
It was the first time she worked with the LUMIX S 85mm f 1.8 lens. ‘The first thing that struck me was how little it weighs. It perfectly balances with the LUMIX S camera and delivers outstanding results in terms of sharpness and beautiful background bokeh. Good, fast lenses are often large and heavy but this lens is a gem to work with. It combines everything a professional needs with a great user experience. This lens is just the way I like them.’ She donated the revenues of this project to a charity, 2helpingshands. ‘This organisation helps the refugees in Moria, Greece.
This project was already so rewarding in itself, I really wanted to do something good with the revenue. That’s something I’ve always done. If you can have an impact on the world because you’re famous, are in power or have a lot of followers on social media, you should use that influence to help others.’
Emma Svensson started as a photographer in 2002, photographing music artists and concerts but also established her name in the fashion photography. Next to her world record effort to climb 61 of Europe’s mountains she runs a busy studio where she employs a number of female photographers. She works towards an equal position and change for woman in photography while she is passionate to inspiring people to follow their personal dreams.