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Petra Stenvall

The Swedish native and LCC student tells us more about her project 'The Americans' and how the screen became her studio

Twenty-something photography student, Petra Stenvall’s ongoing project ‘The Americans’ is an interesting take on Robert Frank's original work of the same name. Inspired by Frank’s original concept of documenting people and places whilst travelling around the US, Stenvall gives the concept an entirely new and contemporary twist. Using the Internet as a gateway to access various subjects and places across the US, Stenvall explores travelling without even moving an inch, but also explains “I wanted to challenge myself to only have technology to trust, as an photographer/video-maker I have the need to have the control, to be close to the object I'm shooting/documenting, ‘feel it, smell it’ ”. Each girl featured in the series, recruited after replying to a casting call, is completely unknown to Stenvall. With all images captured via Skype, the screen becomes the photographer’s studio, we spoke to Stenvall to find out more...

Dazed Digital: What inspired you to start taking photos?
Petra Stenvall:
I don't really know. But my mum used to take photos when she was young and my grandmother used to paint, I'm a terrible painter so I guess photography seemed like a fun thing to do. I'm also from such a small town in North of Sweden so when me and my best friend got bored we used to borrow my mum's old camera and just dressing up and taking photos of each other

DD: Whose work do you admire and why?
Petra Stenvall:
Erwin Wurm one minute sculpture, I just love this work, the photos, documentation of the performance is hilarious to look at. It all look so spontaneous, take what you got around you and see what you can do with it...

DD: What projects are you currently working on?
Petra Stenvall:
I have a video job coming up in July and in August I'm going home to Sweden to start on my 3rd year project. I'm also working on my collaborative project: Compass we are having an exhibition the 12 October so this summer we are finishing off all the work, and I'm learning to cast in resin this summer so maybe something will come out of that, we'll see.

DD: For your ongoing The Americans project, technology plays an important role in the work, but do you ever think modern technology will phase out more traditional methods/styles of photography?
Petra Stenvall:
Actually some of the photos from the Americans where shoot on a analogue camera pointing at the screen so I'm still holding on to the traditional. I think it's good to embrace new things as digital but in the same way hold on to the old, a little of both has never hurt anyone.

DD: What equipment do you use and why do you like it?
Petra Stenvall:
It depends what I'm shooting. But I love my Hasselblad 500c, it looks good, it feels good, and the quality of the pictures that comes out from it is perfect otherwise then that I do most of my videos on my Canon 550 D and my 35mm photos on a Canon A-1.

DD: If you could sum up your approach to taking photos in a sentence what would it be?
Petra Stenvall:
'The constant tension between description and abstraction' - Philip Perkis