About the artist
This week we meet award-winning photomontage artist, Tommy Ingberg. Tommy is a photographer and visual artist from Nyköping, a beautiful small town about an hour south of Stockholm, Sweden. He has been photographing since he was a child and has tried all types of photography. Right now, he is working with photography and digital image editing; using conceptual surrealism to depict self-reflection and observations on human nature, feelings and thoughts.
How did you first get into digital art, and why did you choose it as your medium?
I started doing photography somewhat seriously when I was about 15 years old. Since then, I have tried almost every kind of photography you can think of: portraits, concert photography, street photography, nature photography and everything in between. Despite being all over the place in terms of genres, I have always gravitated more towards art photography than to documentary photography.
I have never seen photography as a way of objectively describing reality, but rather as a way of telling stories and sharing my views. When looking back at my old pictures, I can see that my current visual language has always been there. In many ways, the pure photography I did before resembles my photomontages in terms of motifs, composition and ‘feel’. They were often simple, minimalistic pieces with a single subject and lots of space. But since I had to rely on the scene in front of the camera I could not really tell the stories I wanted, I always felt something was missing. It was first when I started making composites, creating my own scenes and reality that I could refine my work further. I still enjoy taking ‘normal’ photos in my spare time, nowadays this is usually with my phone.
Tell us about the process you use to make your art.
I try to be disciplined and work methodically in my creative process, but I’m really nowhere near to understanding it, and sometimes it just feels like chaos. For me, th essential part of it all is to give myself time to think and reflect; that’s when I can start putting a piece together in my head. I carry around a notebook to sketch down ideas and thoughts. Another significant part is actually to do work; shooting and editing as much as I can, even if the majority of work ends up in the bin.
When I have a somewhat finished idea of a piece, I proceed by shooting the photographs I need, preferably in the studio with controlled lighting. I then put it together in Photoshop. I often need to make the first draft before I can finalise the idea; to see what works visually and if I need to reshoot some source files. Often I will end up deviating from the original sketch. That is part of the fun for me; to surprise myself with the end result, letting the process be fluid with spur-of-the-moment decisions.
I try not to over-think my work or workflow. It is emotional rather than intellectual; the work is self-reflecting, the stories come from within, and the workflow is very much driven by the joy of creating.
I have not timed my work, but I would guess I put in between 12 to 24 hours of work behind the camera and computer to finish a picture. The idea part is much harder to estimate, as it’s something that’s continually going on in my mind. An idea can conceptualise instantly or take months or even years to become a picture.
Name three artists who inspire you.
Since I’ve tried numerous types of photography, my influences have been many and diverse, and from classic photography and arts rather than from digital artwork. Early on it was the great masters of photography like Henri Cartier-Bresson, Annie Leibovitz, Elliot Erwitt, Gilberte Brassaï and so on, too many to name. I consumed a lot of photography and had new favourites every day.
When I started making photomontages, I began to learn more about the great painters and artists from other fields, like Warhol, Picasso, Magritte, Miró and Escher. I have learnt a lot both as an artist and as a person by studying greatness in all fields of art, be it music, photography, painting, poetry or anything else. It is very developing and humbling to look at your own work in that context.
How do you think you’ve improved as an artist compared to when you first started?
My technical skills have, of course, improved, but more importantly, I think I’m willing to be more out of my comfort zone. I will try new things without always thinking about what others will say about my work.
What advice would you give yourself if you could go back to when you started making art?
That you only have one shot at life, so try to spend as much time as possible doing what you love. Learn what is important to you and what is not.
What equipment and apps/programs do you use to create your art?
I don’t pay much attention to the technology and equipment part of photography. The equipment I buy is only that which I really need and that somehow improves my work. I shoot with a Canon EOS 7D and 5D, mostly equipped with an L 24-70/2.8 lens. In-studio I use lighting from Elinchrom and a sturdy Manfrotto tripod. All the editing is with Photoshop on a somewhat high-end PC.
Do you use images from stock sites as well as your own photos and if so, which are your favourites and why?
No. For me, the photography part of my workflow is essential. I need to have control of all parts of the process to be able to get the end-results I want.
Do you find that people dismiss digital art as a valid art form?
I think /digital art/ is a bit too broad of a term, that can include a large variety of different work and genres. That said, I think that it can take a long time for the established art world to accept new ways of creating – look at photography as an example. I also believe that digital art is more extensive than just a new way of creating; it is closely connected to the Internet and how it challenges or even completely bypasses the hierarchy of the art world and how artists reach out with their work and how people consume art.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts and artwork with us, Tommy!