“Flexibility” is the perfect word to represent Carolina Palmgren’s approach to her work. She enjoys it all — from conceptualizing shoots, storyboarding, and designing campaigns, to shooting, producing, and retouching. This Swedish-American former model, self-taught photographer, art director, and new mom started out as a fine arts student back home twelve years ago and has been picking up new skills ever since. While Carolina only started taking photographs professionally less than three years ago, there is no denying her incredible talent… and there is no stopping her.
How would you describe yourself professionally?
Right now, I think of myself as a photographer with lots of skills in different areas. I’m still an art director, but that’s not how I market myself primarily anymore.
What are some of the things that inspire you?
I shoot so many different things like fashion, portraits, music, and it all calls for different visual solutions. I draw my inspiration from the assignments themselves in that I always try to shoot what is appropriate for the subjects or the company I’m working for. But when it comes to portraits and personal projects I guess you could say the subjects themselves are my inspiration. One person might seem appropriate to shoot really light, like say, for example, backlit with lots of sun and motion blur to capture their spirit, whereas someone else might be better in a starker or harsher light with more character and more “mood.”
How do you get your assignments?
It depends, a little bit of everywhere. It mostly happens through word of mouth, as well as via previous agencies I’ve worked for as an art director. It also occurs through friends and designers, or even people who just find my work online or in an editorial. The last way is by calling the people I’d like to work for myself.
Why don’t you tell us about some of your favorite work?
I love it all! However, as of now, I think location shoots are the most fun — being in some kind of environment is the main thing for me. I also love shooting high-end fashion in a more artistic way whenever possible — focusing as much on the story and the girl as the clothes.
How did you get started in photography?
I learned the basics of photography in Sweden in my teens, where I did lots of darkroom / black & white, as well as photo-journalistic type work. Then I didn’t do anything with that for a long time, when I focused on painting and got a degree in graphic design. That said, it has always been with me in some capacity; I decided to pursue it professionally about three years ago.
What made you move to the United States?
I got a summer scholarship to study painting in San Francisco. In the end, that summer turned into a BFA in Graphic Design and seven years there! I moved to New York City afterwards and have been there for five years now.
What triggered that desire? Why switch to a different art form?
As a designer or art director you are in a constant need for great images and I think the temptation of actually being the creator of those images myself just took over. You’re always very involved in photography when you do art direction, and I had been on set for so many years that it already seemed natural. Funnily, I say that I’ve been shooting for nearly three years but I’ve really been on set for ten, including my years as a model. It was always something I’ve wanted to do and it was time for me to try something else and continue to use the same skills I was using as an art director. Photography is just more applied and hands-on.
For our more expert readers, what sort of camera do you prefer using?
It’s fun to shoot film, but I prefer digital altogether. My tastes have become quite refined now that I’ve been fortunate to have access to the incredible digital Hasselblad H4D, which is in the 30k range on the market but that they (Hasselblad) ended up lending to me in order to support me as an “emerging photographer.” The image quality is fantastic!
Once you’ve taken the pictures, what does your editing process look like?
I feel like editing almost makes the photography. Someone else could edit your work, but it would look completely different. They could have a different take on it. The selection and editing process is what makes the images personal. By editing, you’re creating the story and how you want to tell it. For instance, if all I select are smiling shots, I would have a certain kind of mood and story – maybe suitable for a catalog type shoot. However, if I choose images that are a little bit different, have a different mood, are maybe a little more serious and more fashion-oriented, then you get a totally different story; maybe something that would be better for an edgy magazine.
For an individual who has dabbled in so many art forms, what does a story mean to you?
A continuation, a series of pictures, is what photographers generally call a story. It’s much more subtle than, say, video in terms of “story.” You can shoot photography to be more literal, almost equivalent to stills in a film.
What are your goals for the future?
In terms of photography, I’d just like to take it to the next level with larger productions. To get lots of new and exciting clients which will take me traveling and experiencing more things. I would also love to continue learning about other mediums. I’d be interested in short films and possibly doing some directing.
How can Daily BR!NK readers contribute to your success?
If you are an agent or editor looking for new talent or just happen to have a job – large or small – that you need shot, please don’t hesitate to call me. Most particularly, I would love for a chance to build relationships with the bigger brands, magazines, and catalogs in NYC and LA. The next step always happens with the help of others. To quote one of my favorite SF street quotes: “I have a feeling something amazing is about to happen.”