Jens Lennartsson is a self-taught photographer and storyteller based in Malmö, Copenhagen, trying to find ways to experience the planet without leaving much of a footprint. His previous career as a press photographer comes in handy for his more commercial travel and lifestyle photographs. They are produced with a minimum amount of equipment since his philosophy is that there is so much more to fill your life than with things. Like beautiful light, awesome food and epic friends, he is blogging about creativity, storytelling, traveling, and the human side of photography at The Zen Photographer. His latest works can be seen on Instagram (@jenslennartsson), and on his website at www.jenslennartsson.com.
DOMINIQUE JAMES: How did you get started in photography?
JENS LENNARTSSON: My grandfather taught me how to develop black-and-white pictures in his basement when I was around 12. I did it a few times a year after that, but it never really took off. It was too messy and there were too much stuff that I needed. I loved the pictures, but not the equipment. About five years later, when I got my first digital camera, that’s when it really took off. Now, I could focus on the images, not the gear.
DJ: What kind of pictures do you like to take?
JL: I want to show people different ways of living, and to travel the planet without leaving too much of a footprint. I want to be able to show the sharing of experiences with people we meet, and how to learn from each other.
DJ: Who or what would you consider as influential to your photography?
JL: Funny thing, I know very few photographers. I don't plow through art books or websites with images from my colleague photographers. I tend to look more at other art forms, like movies or illustrations. I love the work of Wes Anderson, Stanley Kubrick, and Alfred Hitchcock. I also tend to get a lot of inspiration from the minimalism movement.
DJ: What’s your favorite camera and lens?
JL: I thought this was going to be an interview about photography, not gear? :) Actually, I hate cameras and I hate talking about gear. The smaller, the better. If I didn't need a camera at all to shoot my photos, that would be awesome.
DJ: Any other particular piece of photo gear that you feel is essential or like using?
JL: My brain and my eyes are the things I couldn't do without. Pretty old
DJ: How you edit and enhance your pictures before showing them? What is your post-production process like?
JL: Import to Lightroom, change contrast and colors, export. As quick as possible, please. There's a scale for all images that goes from “great looks" to “great story,” and you will always end up somewhere in between those. A picture could either look amazing—amazing colors, great blurriness, and extremely sharp. Or it could tell you the most amazing story and it doesn't matter if it is technically perfect. The more you focus on technique and gear, the less the picture will touch you.
DJ: How do you share your pictures and to whom?
JL: I’ve decided to focus mainly on my blog—where I talk about creating and sharing in a human way—and through my Instagram account. I'm slowly starting to experiment with YouTube, but I'm not very good at that. I'm also sharing through the magazines that I'm working for as a travel photographer.
DJ: How do you store or archive your pictures?
JL: Most probably, in an unsafe way.
DJ: What do you think of today’s state of photography?
JL: I think that photography might be starting to concern itself with real matters again. After a decade of focusing solely on cameras and lenses, it seems like it might be more and more about the story. Just look at Instagram for example. Photographers with millions of followers that only shoot with a phone camera. I love that! It is truly amazing that you can achieve such a thing.
DJ: What is that one all-important lesson you’ve learned when it comes to photography, and what is the best piece of advice you’ve received and can share with others?
JL: Live now, share later. When you are taking a photo, you are living the world in two dimensions. You are not really there. Just listen to all the photographers that are working in war zones or documenting natural disasters. They all say that living the world through the lens is the only way to cope with the terrible things they see. So if you are moving in a place that you actually want to experience, it is important to forget that you are a photographer sometimes, and just be. Take everything in. I wrote a blog post on Medium about that a few days ago.
Notes: All photographs on this page, used with permission, by Jens Lennartsson. Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. For the complete set of interviews and photographs of all the amazing photographers featured on this blog’s exclusive Q&A, please click here.