Lars (Stranger #65/100), Stockholm

Stockholm’s Gamla Stan is almost custom built for portrait backgrounds – narrow alleyways with slight curves and high buildings helping to give an even light across wider spreads of backdrop than often afforded to the photographer.

Lars is a Stockholm native since 1938, and was able to fill me in on some of their stories. This one is Prästgatan, which features in a number of folk songs. He also noted the changes over his time here – sadly tinged with the same trends as so many places; one can’t leave a door unlocked any more, for instance.

Picking his way through the dense crowds attracted to the city centre by the “Vattenfall World Triathlon Stockholm 2014”, Lars had struck me both for his meditative, intelligent gaze and his angelic white glow. In the shadows of the alleyway I’d test shot for a background, I hoped he would offer enough contrast to claim centre stage, and have the presence to justify it! In the shot we used just the sunfire (gold/silver striped) reflector with a -2 stop pop of fill flash from an on camera softbox. Together, as the softbox is so high, I find you end up with a kind of guerrilla clam shell light set-up. It’s maybe not the most masculine lighting set up, but I think it does a good job of giving lars and his chic blazer an even pop of highlight against the darker alleyway.

Often I would clone out the bokeh highlight behind him, but in this case it felt appropriate – a sort of “light bulb moment” look to it, in keeping with Lars’ quick intelligence.

He’s a psychotherapist, and we talked about his work. He also showed me a book he’d picked up that morning; Death Of A Hero. It discusses the role of men in the modern world, in the light of recent trends in popular culture. Man, Lar notes, now graces our screens generally as an oaf, as a sports obsessed, greedy, lager craving beast. That’s not to say that the portrayal of women has ever been adequately fair, he explains, just that the recent trend is aggressively pushed and men are left confused, challenged and in danger of losing their identity in the face of the media onslaught. It was a very interesting angle on the world to have explained with Lars’ methodical intelligence and understated passion.

It’s worth noting that world class cyclists were whizzing past us, about three metres in front of Lars, as we shot this. How on earth he maintains his serenity and focus, I don’t know!

Lars – Thank you so much for your time. I hope you caught up with the rest of your party and like your portrait. Tack!

This is portrait #65 of my 100 Strangers Project – check out the group page and get involved.

Finally, I’m now live on Facebook; www.facebook.com/Flatworldsedge

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