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Interview with Fredrik Olsson of smudo.org


Fredrik Olsson is the photoblogger behind smudo.org.


PetaPixel: Could you tell me about yourself?

Fredrik Olsson: I’m Fredrik. I live in Stockholm, Sweden with my wife and two kids.

I guess the thing anyone meeting me for the first time says is “gosh, you’re tall!” :) Wow, it’s hard to talk about myself like this… I like music, not playing, but listening to. I like to take pictures. I’m overall a fairly happy dude.

For a living, I’m a researcher in language technology and information access. My current professional interest is in how to make advanced information access techniques available to a broader public. Spare time-wise, I like to hang out with my kids and family, and, of course, to take pictures. :)

PP: How tall are you?

FO: 204 cm (6 foot 7 according to google).


PP: How did your interest in photography start?

FO: I’m not really sure. I’ve always liked to draw and paint. At some point I borrowed my mother-in-law’s Pentax Spotmatic F. I think it was in 2000 or 2001. The next thing I knew, I had signed up for an evening course in photography. That was in 2002. From then on, I’m stuck. :) But I still don’t remembering taking the decision of signing up to that course.

PP: Is there any meaning behind the name “smudo”?

FO: Yes, a rather silly one. A decade or so ago, some friends of mine used it as an expression to mock someone who was a little bit too clever for his own good… as in “hey smudo!”. It’s an acronym for “super mega ultra dukt-olle”.

Well, I guess the first part is clear. Nowadays, I don’t think of it as being an acronym. Just the name of my site. I cling on to it since I like the sound of it, and that it sounds like an actual word, but isn’t.


PP: Do you prefer film or digital?

FO: Wow. That’s a hard one! There’s something special with film, for sure. But I more often than not end up using my digital gear. I’d say I prefer film, but if I had to make a one-time decision, it’d be digital. What I find attractive with film is the process of taking pictures, that each and every exposure is there, not deletable, and that it forces me to spend more time to think before pressing the shutter.

Recently, I picked up a Polaroid sx-70, a camera that I’ve been looking to get for a long time. I pretty much find that one to combine the best of both worlds, in a sense; it’s instant feedback, but the sheer cost of pressing the shutter requires me to be very certain about what I want to capture and how to do it.

PP: Isn’t your time with the sx-70 ticking though, since Polaroid retired their film?

FO: Yes, definitely! I’ll get me some more packs of film, then I’ll see what happens. Maybe me and the sx-70 won’t last more very long, or it’ll be a camera that I’ll use on very special occasions only in the future.

PP: Can you list some of the gear you currently use?

FO: Um. Nikon d700 + various lenses, Polaroid sx-70, Lomo lc-a, Holga, Fuji f200exr.


PP: Which are your favorite lenses and why?

FO: As for now, I’m really fond of the 105/1.8. I got it recently, and haven’t really come to grips with it yet. It appears to be a great portrait lens, and I particularly like the shallow DoF it is able to produce. For the same reason, I really like the 50/1.4. That said, the lens that I use most often, is the Tamron 28-75/2.8; I like it because it is lightweight, fast, and delivers reasonably good image quality… it manages to keep up with them kids at home and it’s a good walk-around lens.

PP: What type of photography do you enjoy the most?

FO: Turning everyday moments and situations into something that I (and hopefully others) enjoy looking at. Snapshots with a twist. Photography that selectively samples the things enjoyable in life.

PP: When did you start your photoblog?

FO: I made the first post on July 3, 2003, so it’s been six years next week.

PP: What has been the most challenging thing you’ve faced since starting smudo.org?

FO: Blog-wise? To keep the blog personal without flaunting the privacy of my near and dear. From working with information access and the Internet, I know that what goes on the internet, stays on the internet; I want my kids to be able to actively make the decision regarding their presence on the web when they’re old enough. Other than that, I think the most challenging thing about running a blog, of any kind, is to keep posting on a somewhat regular basis.


PP: Have you wanted to quit at times? If so, what kept you going?

FO: I’ve thought about quitting, but not for long. The thing is, I’m very bad at quitting things. :)

Seriously, without the blog and the social interaction it has entailed, I probably wouldn’t be doing photography. So, no blog, no photography; and I find it hard to think of a life without photography.

PP: How much does post-processing play a role in your photography?

FO: Oh, a big role, I’d say. About half the work is in post. That doesn’t mean I end up doing many edits, but in thought, the post processing plays a great role. Let’s say that I allow post processing to be half of the image creation. I usually don’t do other things in post than I couldn’t have done in a wet lab.


PP: Can you describe your workflow?

FO: I’m shooting in jpg (fine) and raw. Offload the images to the computer, sorting them based on date offloaded. I use iview mediapro for looking at and cataloging the images (it’s a discontinued software, so it doesn’t handle d700 raw files, but my computer is old and can’t cope with anything newer). After the selection process, I fire up my very old copy of Photoshop (or bibble if converting from raw) and do whatever edits I find appropriate (levels and curves mostly, maybe some (de)saturation), resize for web, unsharp mask and save. That’s about it. I try to keep the images backed-up on at least two different external drives.

PP: Let’s say a genie gave you the opportunity to photograph anything. Can you describe that dream situation or location?

FO: In any situation? Wow. I need to ponder that for a while…

What comes to mind, having kids of my own, would be to take photos and mental notes from the point of view of a child. The first few years, we, as kids, remember nothing from. But the same years are the ones that the parents perhaps cherish the most. It’d be interesting to keep memories of those years; What were we thinking about? What situations influenced us?


PP: Do you have any advice for aspiring photographers who are looking to get where you are?

FO: Keep shooting. Carry a camera at all times. Be active on discussion forums and on sites like flickr.

PP: What are the biggest influences on your work?

FO: I’ve chosen not to delve into the world of classical photography. So I know almost nothing about the Great Ones… which is sort of weird given my day-job as a researcher. :)

Thus I can’t really say what inspires me in terms of the history of photography. I’d have to say that my biggest influences include what I see, read and hear about in the media. Tt’s vague, I know. Sorry for not being able to come up with a proper answer.

I follow people on flickr and through their photoblogs; Those are my main inspiration.


PP: Who are your favorite photographers?

FO: there are a number of photobloggers that I follow; I’ll list some of those…

John, sannah, justin, radio.urugay, raul, …

There’s a whole bunch of great sites out there… I’ve listed some of them on my links page, and I continuously add images I like to my flickr favorites.

PP: Who is one person you would like to see interviewed on PetaPixel?

FO: John of orbit1.com.

PP: Any final things you’d like to leave PetaPixel readers with?

FO: Stay (trigger) happy!