ART: Interview with Mats Bäcker

By 17 August, 2017Uncategorized

How did you started working a photographer? When was you first assignment and for whom?

MB: I had the interest already as a teenager. When I was around 17 I met a photographer who was about ten years older than me who was a great inspiration. I took evening classes for him and worked a bit in his photograph cooparative. The first assignment I did was for a magazine for the communist party youth organisation about a freetown in Copenhagen called Christiania were a lot of hippies lived.

After years photographing big stars and people from all over the world, Do you still enjoying to do photographs?

MB: Yes I still enjoy taking pictures a lot and see lots of new challenges. It is not about shooting stars for me but making good pictures. Of cores I shoot mostly artists but in my way. I go ing two directions right now. One way I go back to very classic black and white photography and the other track is more of fantasy worlds where I work a lot together with a Syrian artist, Muhammad Ali who is a wizard in photoshop.

Why did you focus mainly on musicians?

MB: I started photographing photographers because I of corse liked rock music and at the time I began was the punk era 1976 were so much happened and everything was possible. It was easy to get close to the musicians both back stage and at concerts. I also played sax in a punk band myself so it was part of my life. I was not just an observer. I still work with mostly music but nowadays classical music and opera.

Is there somebody you wanted to photograph  and you did not have the opportunity?

MB: In a way there are some people that I would have liked to take photos of that I haven´t. It is hard to say any special ones. Many of the ones I have shot its only during concerts and not getting to meet them really. I guess that some of them like Bowie and Prince for instance I would have liked to really have worked close with.

What is your rol when you have to do a portrait? How do you approach the other person?

MB: When i do portraits now it is almost only assignments from either magazines, record companies or the artists themselves. So therefore I seldom have to approach them myself to start with. But even so one has to show respect and get to know them by being personal and open and listen. Just like making a friend. Therefore I usually become friends with many of the people I shoot. One can not be too shy and not to pushing either.

What are your technical preferences to photograph? Do you still work on analogue photography?

MB: I almost only work digital these days. I work with a Sony camera for my b/w more personal photos and with Canon for assignments and colour. I have some special analog cameras that I use for some projects but very rarely.

I have seen on some of your photos the inscription “niet croppen” (do not crop), What do you think images shoul never be re-framed?

MB: Before when I worked analog with real film I never ever cropped a photo. This was for two reasons. First I like to do the composition in the camera and everything in the picture was important. Secondly a technical reason. When you blow up an analog picture it looks so much worse in every detail when it is cropped then if it is the whole negative. I also like the black framing you get when you keep it all. Then of cores I am very inspired by Henri Cartier Bresson.

When and where did you learn photography?

MB: I first learned photography as I said by a friends evening classes. Then when I was 18 I started a two year full time education in photography in a town called Malmö in southern Sweden. After working for some years I studied in an art university called Konstfack in Stockholm for two years. (now 40 years later my wife is the principal of that school) I have also taken courses in digital photography since then.

You have photographed big musicians from all over the world, from Bowie to Iggy, from Marianne Faithful to Grace Jones, Do you feel is something in common to all these people?

MB: Yes in a way. It is musicians who don´t as John Lennon said made ”wall paper music”. They all made a difference. Not commonplace music but had something to say. I have myself been so inspired by especially Iggy Pop, Bowie and Prince.

Keith Richards, Göteborg, 82

Mick Jagger/ Satisfaction – Göteborg 1982

Please tell my any anecdote you remember specially from a shoot.

MB: A few days before we met Iggy Pop, his friend Marc Bolan died. When we got to the Plaza Hotel in Copenhagen, Iggy sat absorbed in a newspaper and read about Marc Bolans car accident. After a long time he looked up, held out his hand, and said, “James Osterberg,” his real name. Mats introduced themselves as Mats and I was a bit shy mumbled something like “My name is the same as also Mats” Iggy looked at me in surprise and said: “Orson Welles?” I was really embarrassed, but just said “Yeah”.

During the interview Iggy mostly talked about golf. We figured, what sour old fart. He neither looked or behaved like the rebel and savage we had expected to meet.

After a while, asked Mats Z on his friend Marc Bolan. Then broke Iggy directly and “Do not mention him!”. He domderade constantly their environment, and when he would order coffee he cried out loud throughout the hotel bar “Bartender”, about which he sang the theme from Goldfinger. He suggested that I take some pictures when he posed in the bar. Mats Zetterberg found Iggy Pop felt like a severe mental case. But is was fast and rapping in their lines. And when he was asked: “What do you think of flower power?” He replied briskly: “I killed it!”

Some of his band members, brothers, Hunt and Tony Sales, also sat with and was pretty bored. After a while, asked Tony Sales if I could take some pictures of them too. We went down to the hotel toilet and burned a few pictures with the flash right on. Tony asked, Is your name really Orson Wells?,  I did not really know how I would get out of the situation, so I simply said: Yes, you must have some name, don´t you?.

In the evening was the concert at a small place called Daddy’s Dancehall in downtown Copenhagen. The stage was perhaps a few feet high, with a packed dance floor in front. It was anincredible pressure as soon Iggy started. It is very hard to believe it was the same person we met in the afternoon. He was extremely fit, climbed on the speakers and threw himself down again on stage. After a few songs, a fight started in the audience and chairswere thron at the stage. Iggy was angry, really angry. The concert was canceled a while for the audience to calm down.

My picture of Iggy Pop with the finger has been almost iconic status. Little did I know it then. In retrospect, I can see how much energy there is in this frozen moment. I was in the middle of a musical explosion. I wasn´t an outsideer as a reporter or observer. There was also an intense and transformative phase in my life. I was only 19 years old.



Iggy Pop / Raw Power
Daddys Dancehall, Copenhagen 1977

Have you ever been to Ibiza?

MB: Haven´t been to Ibiza yet but to Mallorca a lot. I love parts of Palma and especially some of the small villages in the mountains as Selva and Orient for instance.

Ibiza has a long history of music, Do you think that the Dj scene of today can be compared to the rock musician era that you have lived?

MB: I have not opinion at all about the DJ scene of today as I have moved away so far from it…

What are your plans for the future?

MB: My plans for the future is to live a good life and hopefully make some interesting projects but cool down my career. We have a fantastic house on another island called Fårö in the Baltic sea. It is most famous for it was were Ingmar Bergman lived and made a few of his films. There I want to spend most of my time with the locals.




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