What I do
  Why I love



I have a very early memory; my father turned our kitchen into a dark-room. There was a reddish light, a particular smell, drawers I was not allowed to open containing light sensitive photo-paper and trays with images magically emerging. He later trusted me we his precious Contaflex. In early teens I had my own dark room, less than two sqm. It was a gate to beautiful worlds of pictures, imagined and real. It was also a quiet and secluded space, entirely my own.

As child of parents and grandparents in exile from their home country, Latvia, my roots were somewhat damaged. Mother died much to young. The camera became a tool to investigate the world and myself. Drawn to beauty and the immaterial play of light and shadow I was also searching for my own identity. It was good company in lonely moments and sharpened powers of observation. I carried vast voids in my heart and used the camera as a kind of telescope to look for whatever it was that was missing.

I turned the camera to the traces we leave behind – empty chairs, streets, houses and objects. Gravestones became my first thematic exhibition. Impermanence was and probably still is the single most important theme for me. The awareness that nothing lasts forever and that my and our time on earth is finite. That the gift of life is not to be taken for granted, and something to appreciate.

Rodin thrilled me, the sounds of African drums shook me. To a good beat I just have to move, still now. The human body; the way we look, move and express ourselves through our bodies is ceaselessly interesting to me. Body and soul. Contemporary dance, how exciting! These courageous people who expose and express themselves with their body as their only instrument.

I have been fortunate to follow and make pictures of some truly gifted performing artists. It is indeed a challenge to capture the movements, sometimes lightning fast, in fractions of a second. To condense a choreography into a few two-dimensional pictures.

I took an immense interest in the photographic materials and techniques. Classic dark-room work, silver materials, the zone system and fine-art printing. A special interest formed; historical techniques, especially gum bichromate printing. I was attracted to alternative printing materials, artist papers and pigments. The hunt for subtle physical and sensual qualities of the print pulled me into long sessions in the dark room. Tedious, elaborate and challenging processes with few possible shortcuts made me happy, alert and often took me to a blissful state of forgetting myself, absorbed by the work.

The Stockholm Town Hall book-project in the beginning of the nineties was a beautiful and encouraging experience. I was once on the site doing a commercial assignment when I fell in love with this particular house. There was something with this legacy of the Architect Ragnar Östberg that moved me deeply and made me return, time after time to study this iconic building and make pictures. The book that became the result took three years to make. It and myself was awarded six times in Sweden and internationally and was a great confirmation that I did ok.

I love to work with dedicated professionals of many fields: Architects, lighting designers, visual artists, designers, craftsmen/women and art directors. To solve visual and communicative problems and to assist in making something more visible.

The camera has brought me to many different countries in the world. I have been blessed with many touching experiences in my encounters with beautiful and gentle people I did not know. All along I have acquired new references and have had my own set of values questioned. I have had the chance to contribute to several books and make exhibitions in Sweden and far abroad.

The state of the earth and the quality of life of its citizens concern me more and more. How can I use what I have learned as a human being and as photographer so far? How do we live our lives and how to we treat each other? These questions linger in my mind every day. The GLOBAL PHOTO PROJECT is one attempt to act on it. It is a lifelong global study of the human face. A project based on statistics in collaboration with humanitarian organizations in different parts of the world.

Teaching early became natural while I was learning the craft myself. It is truly stimulating to be in dialoge with curious and hungry souls and to be able to pass on some of what I have learned through the years. From technical to communicative aspects of photography. About light and its absence.

Ivar Sviestins, January 2011



Copyright © 2015 Ivar Sviestins, photographer. All rights reserved.