Photographer Profile – Thobias Fäldt

Strobes can be used to try to recreate the look of natural light, but inevitably something is, and will always be, off. An electric box is not the same as the sun. Some photographers spend their whole lives fighting this fact, and some embrace the strobe’s ability to transform reality, not mimic it. Thobias Fäldt is one of these.

He uses his flash to simplify and reduce his subject into an elemental form. Each image is punctuated in the most direct way possible by the strobe. From the looks of it, he uses one mounted flash, pointed directly at his subject, so that features are chiseled in tight lines, and their form is punched sharply onto the surface behind them. If nothing is there, the background quickly dissolves into the deepest black.

“Gunman Killed by Off-Duty Cop at 344 Broome Street” (February 3, 1942)

Weegee – “Gunman Killed by Off-Duty Cop at 344 Broome Street” (February 3, 1942)

It’s reminiscent of old-school Weegee-style photo reportage. This also lends everything a seedy quality, since the tools were adopted purely for the practical purpose of exposing the dark corners of urban life.

Looking at Fäldts work, I find that I lose track of any meaning or symbolism and the image becomes a purely graphic statement. Note how the first two pictures in the slideshow (of the rock and the guy in the air) are essentially the same, divorced from their real-life difference in scale, and equally emotionally oblique.

I’m a visual person, and while I like content and I like to think, aesthetics trump all for me, so I’m definitely blown away by his images. At some level, though, I feel Fäldt’s work is almost cheating. Of course a strong light hitting beautiful people looks good! Ask Terry Richardson if this is a commercially viable style. It’s right up there with expired grainy film at catapulting your banal party pics into spreads in $20-an-issue arty-fashion magazines.

But I like how, working within this simple toolset, Fäldt has a range of subject matter, a knack for composition and a subtle, dry wit.

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Nathan Lee Bush is a photo and video artist in New York City. His pictures are on his blog and site, and his videos are on Vimeo.

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