people at home
season 02
märta, 42, bakes bread as therapy, turning something boring into something beautiful with her son björn and wife sophie.

BjÖrn, you seem to know your way around a dough, talk me through the steps! Do I start with the flour?
Björn Yes, the dough needs bubbles.
Working creatively is both a passion and a full time job, seems like baking is your hobby!
Märta Baking sourdough specifically. I did this loaf today, but it didn’t crack the way it’s supposed to. I became obsessed with baking when I was on maternity leave, which also coincided with the pandemic, when everyone started baking. I had never baked bread before, but I thought sourdough was fun and it tastes good. You can follow a recipe, but there’s also no recipe, it’s more of an intuitive process in a way. It feels magical, like this ancient knowledge—just flour, water and salt.
Sophie Märta loves to geek out on the different types of flour, she even got her own mill. Right now it’s a challenging baking period, in that it doesn’t turn out the way she wants.
So you’re struggling artistically with your loaves. What are you trying to achieve?
Märta I want more air pockets. The kitchen used to be my safe space, but now that Björn has gotten involved it’s more stressful. He’ll wake up in the morning and just say: dega! (Swedish for ‘baking’).

“it feels magical, like this ancient knowledge—just flour, water and salt.”
I suppose he sees it as a way to connect with you!
Sophie He also learns a lot! Today he told me that when he touches the dough, the hands need to be wet otherwise the dough will stick.

What does it feel like being the subject?
Sophie When Märta is shooting me, I don’t notice it so much, as I’m so used to it. But having you around makes me sweat!
How did you two meet?
Märta Through work. Sophie was a producer at the production company I was with and we got together at a Christmas party six years ago. At first I was hesitant as we’d be working together. But it was the right timing, and we also had a lot of mutual friends, we had both worked on ourselves.
It’s not just about giving, but also being able to receive.
Märta I actually had this therapy session in October before we met, I wrote down that my therapist said I was ready to meet someone. But I also somehow think that watching all the episodes of Skam released something that was locked up in me. It was also in December, which is a nice time to meet someone.

“watching all the episodes of skam released something that was locked up in me.”

And now you are three. What was the motherhood process like for you two?
Märta It was a very stark change of pace in life.

Sophie When we met we had very different approaches to motherhood. Märta always wanted to be a mother and I was a bit more hesitant.

Märta I was already in the process of becoming a mother, a bit older and had decided that I wanted to have a kid.
And how did you decide? I recently read “Motherhood” by Sheila Heti, where she discusses whether the decision is ultimately our own or conditioned by society.
Märta That’s an ongoing question. You never regret it, but life would be completely different. Being a mother when you are a bit older is a big change, not having the same independence. But I also love it! I needed a change and a pause from partying. Now my life revolves around something else.

And what were your thoughts on it, Sophie, seeing as you were a bit hesitant?
Sophie It was a big decision. I never really longed for kids, but always thought I would regret it if I didn’t have children. If I hadn’t met Märta I would have waited longer. But I knew I wanted to be with her and she had already started the process.
How has it changed you?
Märta It has changed me a lot, becoming less selfish, but at the same time taking better care of myself. It made me more introverted in a way, but I also had Björn in the middle of the pandemic. It was good for me, since I suffer from FOMO and I was just focusing on Björn.

“i had björn in the middle of the pandemic. it was good for me since i suffer from fomo.”
Speaking of, what are some of your favourite places in Stockholm?
Märta Kulturhuset is mighty and cool, I would often go there to watch people. It feels very like Stockholm, in the middle of the city and very accessible, which also feels very Swedish. Another place I like is Ninja Bar. I have a friend who is a chef there. I love the food and the unpretentious vibe! I also like Svedjans bakery a lot!

Women feature in your work a lot! As a female photographer, how do you work with the gaze?
Märta When I started I wanted to be like the guys. As a teenager I wanted to be a skaterboy with dreadlocks, baggy jeans and a Hawaiian shirt. So that was my way of testing who I wanted to be and also with photography. The photography that I saw was made by men. That’s also why it was such a big thing for me when I started to dig through the history of photography and found Nan Goldin and Corinne Day, who used photography the same way I wanted to, using friends and family and the community around them.

“i wanted to be a skaterboy with dreadlocks, baggy jeans and a hawaiian shirt.”

As a teenager, I was always the one with the camera. I was a bit shy and wanted to be a creative, but couldn’t paint or sing. Photography was alluring because it was this male profession, and my dad and uncles were always interested in photography. I saw it as a ticket out of the countryside where I grew up, that would allow me to see exciting things and meet interesting people. So I started to take pictures of friends and did photography in high school, where I found more like-minded people.

Did you feel like an outsider?
Märta I wouldn’t have said that then, but looking back I think that I was, that I didn’t fit. I always had friends, but I was somewhat of a chameleon.
That’s what’s so fascinating with the outsider perspective, whether you actively choose it or are pushed into it.
Märta I am still like that, move in different social sets. I am almost trained from my background to be with different kinds of people and ease into different groups, but always still from an outsider’s perspective and with a camera in hand, that creates almost like a distance.

“i hate doing moodboards.”

Do you feel like you hide behind your camera, using it almost like a shield?
Märta Hiding and an excuse for not taking that much space, communicating that in a different way. I’m not comfortable with being the centre of attention. I was at the Nan Goldin talk the other week, it was the fourth time that I’ve seen her and this time she seemed really happy. She also talked about taking pictures because she was shy, how it became a way to approach people. My first camera was a snapshot camera and I was interested in what it wasn’t supposed to be, the anti-aesthetics, a lot of flash. My family would say it was ugly, but I find it beautiful.

The question of beauty, can it be objective or is it inherently subjective? Where do you see yourself on that pendulum, there is a vulnerability and tactility to your pictures that could be considered beautiful, but there is also a friction.
Märta I find it interesting to make something boring beautiful, using the camera to see things in a different way, in that specific moment in time. That also helps with the flash, it often brings out something that is not always visible, a movement or colours, or just a reaction on a face. I like to come to a room and not be prepared and make the best of it, almost like a challenge. That’s something I love about my job, making something from what’s there.
How do you unite that when working with clients, now that things are so referenced?
Märta That is really hard for me, as I hate doing moodboards, providing the image that matches the reference. This way of art directing is too forced and tends to dilute the end result.

“i’m usually nervous and so is my subject, and we meet in that space.”

The frequency of creative output must also be daunting, especially now that it is mostly image based?
Märta Yeah, I’m noticing a fatigue almost. People are longing to do their own creative projects, outside of the feed. A year ago I had a period of feeling like an imposter and wanting to give up everything to become a baker.
Why is that the case for so many women, is it that we are met with different expectations?
Märta Yeah, there could also be the lack of role models to look towards. I’m 42 and there just aren’t that many women photographers in their 50s or 60s left. I also work in a business where youth is everything, and relevance matters. Also in Stockholm there is only space for two to three photographers at a time, there’s an element of newness to it as well.
Why are you so drawn to the portrait?
Märta I love to meet interesting people and that’s why I wanted to become a photographer because I knew the camera would be a ticket to interesting communities and encounters. I learn so much from the talks and the interaction, and then I get a kick out of being shy and pulling it off. I also meet equals, I’m usually nervous and so is my subject, and we meet in that space, which is really cool.

You’ve talked about what draws you to people, but what makes a good portrait in your opinion?
Märta If you want to capture a person, it would be where that person feels comfortable and in a mindset that expresses something. It could also be about making someone look good or interesting. What I like is when it’s not too perfect, when someone is a bit off. Maybe I’m also drawn to people who stand out and have a lot of personality and integrity, who are brave and opinionated.
writing about the portrait in “on photography”, Susan Sontag stated that people tend to not recognise themselves when they’ve been depicted in a way that isn’t flattering.
Märta That’s really true and it’s a struggle. It was really easy ten years ago, while now with the selfie cameras people are so used to seeing themselves from a certain angle.

“i like when it’s not too perfect, when someone is a bit off.”

Another photographer I know was trying to depict a friend, but this person just wanted to look like a filter.
Märta People would probably see my work and think that they wouldn’t want to be depicted by me.
Because you’re too honest?
Märta I can totally understand it, I am not sure if I would be comfortable being photographed by me, it is like CBT in a way. Maybe it is too honest or too realistic in a way. I also try to flatter, but I don’t retouch to make you look younger.

Isn’t it also about connecting?
Märta I’m very old school like that, I have my gurus in documentary photography that talk about getting closer and to challenge yourself to stay in an uncomfortable situation, since I’m a shy person who finds it uncomfortable and who’s always nervous. I think that’s a nerve that’s good for the pictures.
Do you think you translate or inject that?
Märta It’s good for the session that there’s a tension. It’s not an easy thing. Friction is needed to make it interesting.
In terms of wanting people to engage in vulnerability, it’s almost like lending a hand that they can choose to partake in or not.
Märta It’s a weird situation. And it’s nice to be able to see that vulnerability and have a camera to capture that moment.

How is it when you capture your loved ones?
Märta It is harder. I stopped taking pictures of friends—I only take pictures of Sophie and Björn now. I somehow feel like there is this need to be me in those relationships, that I didn’t use them in some way, I’m not into that. The need to be more in the moment and not thinking that the situation would make a good picture. My next plan is to do scheduled sessions with friends. Now that life has changed, those moments aren’t really there anymore.
Yeah, because you did the book “Drunk in Love”, a project spanning 15 years. It is a lot of memories, documentary of course, but it feels a lot about connection.
Märta For me it’s about longing to connect, for intimacy. I’m still very proud of it, the selection and edit and how it came out. The title is maybe bad, because people have asked me whether they are all pictures from going out. All these people have been close to me and there’s consent, they’re not just random people.

“i’m like a vampire.”

How do you feel about the rise of instagram photographers that take pictures of strangers in public?
Märta Some are really good and it is somehow the perfect street style photography. I couldn’t do it myself, I’m like a vampire, I have to be invited to take a picture. Only a few times in my life have I stopped someone on the street. But that is also what makes me feel like I’m a bad photographer, the fact that I can’t approach someone I see in passing. I could do it, but what would I do with that picture, it just doesn’t fit with my context. I could do it, if I was shooting within a community, but the context give it a story and an agreement in a way. Shooting people outside has also never been my thing.
Why is that?
Märta  I like nature, but I don’t like busy backgrounds, and find blue skies and green trees boring, but if you shoot someone against a white wall it can be anywhere in the world. I like not giving too much information away, that it is almost flat. ❥


Produced in the Kingdom of Sweden
Typeset in Condensa by Jonathon Yule and Century Schoolbook by Linn Boyd & Morris Fuller Benton
Hermit is Hélène Kugelberg, Elise Haugslett, Colin Bergh

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