If you're like me, you can spend hours staring at photos of hardcore shows. Luckily for crazy people like us, there's people like Andreas “Andy” Ljungman in the world. The Swedish photographer and director is a fellow hardcore devotee who captures some of my favorite bands in action back in his home country. By chance, he emailed me one of his Infest pics recently and it started a dialogue which brought us to this latest installment of the Photographer Spotlight series.
Where were you born and raised, and were your parents into the arts?
I was born in a small town called Borås in the south west of Sweden. It's located about 40 minutes from Gothenburg, the second biggest city in Sweden. After I graduated from school, I moved to Gothenburg and lived there for about 15 years. Right now I live in Stockholm since about 3 years ago. My parents weren't into arts at all. I come from a working-class family and weren’t exposed that often to art culture. We never really had those interests in our family. We worked hard and during our spare time we were active in different kinds of sports.
What came first, your love for music, or your love for photography?
Definitely the love for music. I have been into hardcore for more than 25 years. It's just recently that I started to take photos. I have always been into that expression but I was more of an organizer in terms of booking shows, making zines, playing in bands, and booking tours. In 2012, I decided to make a documentary about straight edge and hardcore in Sweden and that’s when I bought the camera equipment. I have never done anything like that so I was pretty much self taught from the beginning. It took about 1 year to make the movie and after that I did a small tour around Sweden and also some screenings at schools, music festivals, etc. It's called Trogen Till Döden (True Till Death) and is up on YouTube with English and Spanish subtitles.
Last spring, I started to take live music photos and learning everything about it. It was a lot of crappy photos in the beginning but I managed to take a few good ones and then I just got hooked. Me and my friend Jonatan Stålberg then started a DIY film and photo collective under the name The Rest of Us. It’s up on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram. We put up live music photos and live clips from hardcore shows. It's just for fun and we’re just using our own equipment. We are about to start up a Kickstarter to hopefully get some money for a proper film camera. Right now we don’t really have the right equipment for a crisp picture in the videos. I still love hardcore and already planned trips to Tokyo for two shows with Agnostic Front and Forced Order, This is Hardcore in Philly, Outbreak Fest in Leeds, and much more. I love going to shows and being a part of the whole movement.
What was your first musical love?
I think the first bands I really was into were KISS and Twisted Sister. Later I found Iron Maiden and got into ”harder” stuff like Anthrax. When I was 13-14, I got into skate punk like NOFX, Millencolin, Bad Religion, etc., which during the time was a big thing in Sweden. Other than that, I also listened to some hip-hop and Rage Against the Machine. Then suddenly Refused got huge in Sweden and we had a strong scene growing with a lot of straight edge bands. That was back in the '90s, and the only way to find out more about bands was to sending letters and ask for mail order catalogs. They often listed the best bands and what type of hardcore they played. Sometimes they had small interviews with bands as well. Then I started to get involved in the whole movement and started to travel all around the world.
The first time I visited the US was back in 2000. I was so lost, but at the airport I had some luck when a girl started talking to me and asked me where I was going. I said I didn’t know yet but that I would figure it out when I arrived in Manhattan. She offered me a place to stay in the Lower East Side. The day after she asked me what I was doing in the US and I told her I was here to buy hardcore records and checking out the scene. She started thinking super-hard and then told me, ”Hey, I have a friend and her brother is in a hardcore band, you might know about him, his name is Sammy Siegler." She hooked me up to go see Sammy when they were recording a Rival Schools album. I have always listened to all kind of hardcore but mostly Youth Crew and old-school hardcore. I like some of the new more metallic hardcore bands like Trail of Lies and Harm's Way as well. I’m also a huge Cro-Mags fan.
What is your camera and post set up?
I have a Canon 5D Mark II with a Tamron 24-70 mm 2.8 G2 and also a Sigma 15mm 2.8 Fish Eye. I recently bought a new Canon 600rt-ex flash. That’s all I’ve been using.
In terms of your non-musical photo work, what kind of stuff do you do?
I mostly do live music photos. That’s my main thing. I shoot when I’m on vacation as well but I’m still learning on that point. Like I said earlier, this is only a hobby for me. I work full days helping bands and organizations in Sweden with study circles. They fill in a form when they have a meeting or band practice and then after a month, three months or half a year they hand it over to me and I help them with paying for local rent, books, strings, and whatnot. It's government-funded and huge in Sweden. We call it ”Folkbildning” (People's education) and was a part of the Sobriety Organization from way back, maybe 130-140 years ago when the Sobriety Movement came from the US to Sweden.
I work full days as an operations developer helping bands and organizations with support. I make sure they fill in the right forms and keep protocol on meetings/band practice, and after a month, three months or half a year they hand it over to me and I help getting them funding for previous bills paying for local rent, books, strings, and whatnot.
Who are some of your favorite bands to shoot?
Bands with long hair [laughs]. Those photos tend to look the best. I like when both band and crowd are really active. The more movement, the better.
If you could go back in time, who are some bands that you would have loved to shoot?
Tough one. I would say maybe Youth of Today back in the '80s. Crazy crowd, massive stagedives, Ray always jumping around. Would have been cool. Also Bad Brains back in the days.
What are the toughest aspects to shooting live shows?
The lights are always a tough aspect. It's always too dark or too much light. Smoke machines photos can be good sometimes, but mostly it fucks with the sharpness, at least for me. It’s also most fun to shoot bands that moves a lot but at the same time it’s hard if you want really sharp photos.
Tell me about some newer bands that we should all be on the lookout for.
I totally love Foreseen from Finland. Good guys and extremely good live. Maybe not a new band, but still super good. Existence from Stockholm is a pretty cool new band. We have a new band from Kiruna, really far up in the north. They are called XSettlementX and their sound is a mix of Doughnuts and Abhinanda. Lowest Creature is doing great right now, kind of a Power Trip sound.
Who are some modern-day photographers that you admire?
If you had to pick one of your photos that best encapsulates why you love shooting bands/artists, which one would it by and why?
I would go for the photo with Infest. Because it’s a good feeling being able to see favorite bands on stage and being all up in the game. I’m not a great mosher and I always tend to hurt myself when I stagedive (that’s how I met my girlfriend, true story) so taking photos is perfect for me.
Tagged: photographer spotlight