Solve Sundsbo

Solve Sundsbo

Solve Sundsbo’s resume is enough to make most photographers green with envy. When he’s not shooting short films for the likes of Nike and Gucci, he’s taking pictures of your favourite supermodels.

Having relocated to London 9 years ago, he has earned his fair share of accolades, including being voted Best Newcomer at the International Fashion Festival in Hyeres. Sundsbo’s work may also have entered your consciousness through his work on the album covers of chart topping groups such as Coldplay and Royksopp. On the eve of his show at the new Spring Studios in London – Solve’s exhibition will be the first at the studios, the 38 year old father of three talks stylish cities, ski photography and breaking into the industry.

“I think that my work is quite difficult in a commercial context but sometimes it can work in an art context.”

Format: Who or what initially inspired you to take an interest in photography?
Solve Sundsbo: What first inspired me – it sounds really silly – was some Swedish ski photographers who worked in the 80’s. It’s an unusual answer, but it’s an honest one. I was skiing a lot and there were some fantastic photographers that produced some really beautiful, poetic images. Photographers like Felix St. Clair-Renard and Mats Gustafson. That was when I was around 14-15. I got into photography through that, and then the path on from there was a bit more complicated. Then there was the classic photographers like [Harry] Callahan, but first it was the Swedish ski photographers that inspired me right from the start.

Format: When did you first realise you had a flair for it?
Sundsbo: My first day of working for a student newspaper, when my camera was completely ruined. My first day of work as their photographer and my old Nikon was ruined so I couldn’t actually see through it, but I had to wing it, so I used it that day and even when I looked at those portraits today, they still look really great. I thought – if I could get away with getting these images with a camera that doesn’t work, maybe I could do this for a living.

Format: Was there anyone in particular who helped you find your feet in the industry?
Sundsbo: My initial mentor was a Norwegian photographer called Nils Vik. And then I assisted a photographer in London for three and a half years called Nick Knight who was so instrumental.

Format: How would you describe your style?
Sundsbo: Simple.

Format: What do you prefer – shooting artwork or shooting films?
Sundsbo: I think that if people call my work art, that’s great. My job is as a commercial fashion photographer. I think that my work is quite difficult in a commercial context but sometimes it can work in an art context. My preferred way of working is on assignment as a commercial photographer with a task; and then to try and fill that with meaning rather than to start from scratch.

Format: How did you come to start shooting short films?
Sundsbo: It feels really limited just to work with still pictures when you can make moving images. I don’t really like narrative; I don’t like a long story. I’ve never aspired to be a film director or even a commercial director as such, but I feel that using 60 seconds of moving images just frees you from the limitation of a still picture where you’ve just got one frame…

Format: So it’s like creating an extended snapshot.
Sundsbo: Exactly.

Format: Since 1999, you’ve had a pretty successful career – starting with being voted best newcomer at the International Festival Of Fashion – how had you found the industry leading up to that point?
Sundsbo: I’d just tried to be blissfully naïve about the whole business all the way through and hopefully I’ll manage to stay quite naïve about it until I die. As soon as you become cynical and hard about it – it starts to lose it’s allure. It’s great if you think about it – you get to go out and create images everyday and try to push the boundaries – that’s not a job. That’s a pleasure. It’s such a thrill and the industry, as such, is really tough – it’s a competition. It’s a mean industry in that there are a few people that control a lot of the most interesting work and there are loads of people who really want it. As I said – I’ve been lucky, I started work straight away and I’ve managed to stay quite naïve. I just forget what’s around me and take the pictures I want to take.

Solve Sundsbo

Format: How did you come up with the artistic technique you used for the cover to Coldplay’s A Rush Of Blood To The Head?
Sundsbo: That picture was actually from a fashion story in Dazed & Confused and I think Chris Martin saw the image and said “I want that on my album cover.” So they called me up and told me.

Format: What should visitors expect from your newest exhibition?
Sundsbo: What they should expect or what I think they will expect?

Format: What do you think they would expect from it?
Sundsbo: I don’t know actually – that’s an interesting question. What I think they expect is simple saturated images – full of meaning. Perhaps more full of meaning than most fashion images are. I think that they should expect extremely high quality prints….I’ve ended up sounding like a salesman, now…

Format: Who are your favourite models to work with?
Sundsbo: There are some fantastic models I’ve worked with. I can give you a long list. This sounds a little bit like a cop out, but I think every model has something to give and I think you just have to find that in whoever you work with. Some of the supermodels are ‘super’, and they are ‘super’ for a reason – if you know what I mean. People like Stephanie Seymour, Kate Moss, Eva Herzigova, Karen Elson, Christy Turlington, Naomi Campbell; all these models – they try to mirror whatever you ask them to mirror. Some people do it more directly, some people in a more unusual way but they have become such strong icons that they have their own character and you just photograph that. Some are more like a canvas and you fill their character with whatever you like. Other models have already got a character and you have to make sure that that character fits into whatever you create so I wouldn’t say that I have one single favourite model…

Format: The aim of Spring Projects is to fill a gap in the commercial market for a regular exhibition space of experimental work by fashion designers, fashion photographers or product designers alongside a fine art programme – How does it feel to be the first artist to exhibit under such a premise?
Sundsbo: Great – it’s always good to start something off. I like that I’m the first one out. I don’t think it gives the show anymore significance. I means that I don’t have anything to follow; it’s quite nice to lead.

Format: You recently worked on a Street Fashion shoot in London for Dazed & Confused. Is there one city that you’ve visited that you would say is more stylish than any of the others?
Sundsbo: Which city? Tokyo’s always a winner for that.

Format: What projects do you have lined up next?
Sundsbo: A Dior fragrance.

Format: Can you finish the following sentence: Solve Sundsbo is…
Sundsbo: (Laughs) – Trying to be a good father to three sons and not to travel too much.

Solve Sundsbo

Kobi Annobil

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  1. mrs. luna says:

    I LOVE SOLVE SUNDSBO! His work is amazing! I love the how creative and colorful his photos are.

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