Hi FashionPhotographyBlog.com readers. This is Per Zennstrom.
I’m always happy to answer questions about my work in fashion photography and this time around Ophelie, a follower from Canada wrote in with some questions about my background and schooling. So I’ve decided to write a post about it, for those that don’t know it already. So let’s get straight to it!
What were you doing before becoming a photographer?
Before I became a photographer I was going to school studying photography, at two schools actually. I was in university for one year studying something completely different. I dropped out, then I did my military service and became an assistant photographer for two years before I got into university.
I studied photography there for another two years and then I dropped out of that again to become an assistant. So I wasn’t really doing very much before I became a photographer, well besides being an assistant. After being an assistant for quite some time, I ended up in New York and I was working there as an assistant again and trying to become a photographer there.
I wasn’t really succeeding. I was working with some Swedish clients of mine but I wasn’t really working with international clients. That was my goal, to become an international fashion photographer, and after a while being in New York and not getting anywhere, I realized I had to move.
I ended up moving to Paris and very quickly things started happening for me. Basically, I just landed, got an agent and I became photographer. So to answer the question, what did I do before becoming a photographer? I was assisting and going to school.
Do you have any early photo work that’s not on your website but can be found on other websites other than your own?
Are there any other images of mine out there? No, not really unfortunately! The images I took before becoming a photographer were influenced by classic street photography like Henri Cartier-Bresson, Andre Kertesz and other great artists like that. All that stuff only exists as prints in my archives. There are no digital versions so it’s not visible online anywhere.
Have I completed any post-secondary education other than the school of photography at university?
No I haven’t, and just to clarify, I didn’t finish my education there. I dropped out because I had received this offer that I couldn’t refuse. It was too too good an offer to say no to.
What did I like most or dislike the most about school?
Well the things that stuck in my mind about going to school..art school I mean (I’m not specifically talking about photo school here but I’d imagine the experience would be similar)… My peers and I were always sitting around talking about photography.
In our case, there were endless nights in the school cafeteria drinking coffee and standing in the darkroom printing over and over. We had endless discussions and arguments over photography and that’s not an experience you are ever going to have, that’s never going to present itself to you again once you’re out of school.
You will never have that environment so if there’s one thing I want you to take away from going to art school is to take care of those moments because they will never ever happen again. Try to make the most out of your time there – that’s important.
I hope this will help you decide whether or not formal education in photography, whether it’s at art school, photography school or university, is right for you from reading about my experience from where I’ve been to where I am now. I also hope that you found this interesting. Thank you very much for letting me share my story.
If you want to share your experiences studying photography at a formal institution, or you are self-taught, feel free to share your story in the comment section below.
Next time, I’m going to answer more questions around my opinion about change and why photographers need to adapt and stay on top of it.