Erik Johansson on Iceland, 2014

Erik Johansson on Iceland, 2014


Here you can find out a bit more about Erik and his work.

Summary / Biography

I was born in April 1985 outside a small town called Götene in the middle south of Sweden. I grew up on a farm with my parents and two younger sisters and I spent a lot of time in nature. For as long as I can remember I have liked drawing. Maybe because of my grandmother who was a painter, or maybe because that's how I always liked to express myself. When my mom asked me how my day in school was I would rather draw a comic showing how it was. My dad got a computer for work already in the mid 80's so I also early developed an interest in computers, mostly by escaping to other worlds through computer games. At the age of 15 I got my first digital camera, a very simple point-and-shoot Fuji camera, but it opened up a new world to me. Being used to the process of drawing it felt quite strange to be done after capturing a photo, it wasn't the process of creating something in the same way as drawing. You didn't start with a white empty paper, once you pressed the trigger you were done. I felt like I wanted to do something more to the photos, where pressing the trigger would only be the start. Having an interest in computers made it quite a natural step to start there. I was playing around with the photos in the computer trying to create something that you couldn't capture with the camera, mostly very basic modifications like changing color or putting my little sisters on our roof top. That is how my interest in photo manipulation started, I learned by trying but it wouldn't become a profession until years later.

I was quite good at mathematics and physics in school and liked the science behind how things work. I went for the natural science program in high school and in 2005 I moved to Gothenburg to study Computer engineering at Chalmers University of Technology. By that time I didn't have any plans on doing the photography for a living, I couldn't imagine it to be a real profession, it was just a fun hobby and didn't really believe that fun and work could be combined. But during my time studying my friend Eric bought a DSLR (Canon EOS 350d). This camera was something completely different from the simple point and shoot cameras I had tried up until this point. I was out taking pictures with Eric a few times and it led to me also getting a DSLR (Canon EOS 400d) the year after. I took up my interest for photography and photo manipulation once again but this time having a better camera I felt like I wanted to spend more time manipulating them as well. I had learned the basics by playing around in Photoshop and I started spending more time on each photo.

I had a lot of ideas that I wanted to bring to life and it was a lot about problem solving trying to make it look as realistic as possible. After publishing some of my images online I started to get requests helping out with some retouch for a few local advertisement agencies. I slowly started freelancing in parallel with my studies while still working on my personal projects. I got more and more work requests and by the time I finished my studies with a master in Interaction Design I felt like I rather wanted to try out the photography path, at least for a while to see how it went. It was time to change environment after 5 years in Gothenburg so I moved to Norrköping in the eastern part of Sweden to try out the life of a freelance. I made new friends and work slowly stared to take off. At first for some advertisement agencies in the town but by having my work published online I also stared to get international requests. In early 2012 it was time for something new again and I packed my bags for Berlin, Germany. I've always thought that inspiration lies within the contrast between things and I think moving from time to time can be very inspiring. Once again I had to restart, meet new friends and get to know a new city. I had 4 great years there but in November 2015 I moved once more to Prague, Czech Republic, and that is where I am currently based. I'm still new to the city and I'm excited to see what it can bring. Although I'm moving around Sweden and the north european landscapes is something that I'm constantly coming back to for taking pictures and finding inspiration. I believe that inspiration lies in the contrast between things.

Today I work as a full photographer on personal and commissioned projects. But I also do unusual projects like a street retouch pranks or anamorphic illusion installations, I like a challenge and to play with peoples perception of what we think is reality. I’ve been working with clients such as Volvo, Toyota, Google, Adobe, Microsoft and National Geographic. I love doing my personal projects but it's also satisfying making someone else's vision come to life. I think growing up on the Swedish countryside had a big impact on my visual style. A lot of the environments in my photos are captured near places I know, around my parents’ home with wide open landscapes and small red houses. Inspiration is everywhere and once you learn the tools you're only limited by your own imagination. I feel like I'm just getting stared for real, there are so many more projects waiting to be put to life.

I've spoken at some conferences including the TED conference in London in 2011. In early 2016 I released my first book "IMAGINE" featuring the first 9 years of my personal projects.

inspire, be inspired
Erik, June 2016


Here are some videos where Erik has appeared. For behind the scenes video check the link in the end of this section.

Human Made, a shortfilm about Erik by Volvo, 2016

Euromaxx feature, November 2015

Speaker at the TED conference in London, 2011

Speaker at the Adobe MAX conference in Los Angeles, 2013

Adobe Short Documentary, 2013

DW – Dreamscapes | Euromaxx, German TV-show, 2013

Questions & Answers

This is a selection of the most frequently asked questions.

Q: Where did you learn how to create these images?

I am self-taught in both photography and retouch. I discovered that it was fun to change and modify photos for fun in the year 2000 when I got my first digital camera. I've always been drawing for as long as I can remember and when I got the camera I felt like I wanted to do something more with the photos. I started playing around with the photos in the computer and discovered photo manipulations.  For me the realism has always been very important and it’s a challenge to make a sketch come to life in a photo. I learned by trying, it took some time and I'm still learning but when you learn the basics of the tools it’s just the imagination that sets the limits.

Q: Where do you find inspiration?

I get inspiration from all things around me. Anything from things I see in my daily life to other artist’s work and music. I think it’s a lot about looking at the world from a different perspective. I get more inspiration from painters rather than photographers . Here are some websites and blogs I visit regularly for inspiration:

Q: What people inspires you?

Here are some artists that inspires me…

Salvador Dali – Spanish surrealist painter
M.C. Escher – Dutch graphic artist
René Magritte – Belgian surrealist artist
Rob Gonsalves – Canadian painter
Jacek Yerka – Polish painter
Shaun Tan – Australian illustrator
Mattias Adolfsson – Swedish illustrator
Sven Nordqvist – Swedish illustrator/author
Thomas Öberg - Singer in bob hund

Q: What are the different stages to create a photo?

Simplified the process is divided into three different parts. It always starts with a sketch, a simple idea. Not many ideas get realized, but if I think it’s good enough I decide try to make it happen.

The first part is planning. Once I’ve come up with an idea that I think is good enough to realize I need to find the places I need to shoot to put the photo together. This can take anywhere between a few days to several months, sometimes years. This is the most important step as it defines the look and feel of the photo, it’s my raw material. This step also includes problem solving, how to make the perspective, reflections, materials and light etc. realistic.

The second part is shooting/collecting the material. I never use stock photography in my personal projects, I always want to be in complete control of my photos and feel like I've done everything myself. It limits me in a way that I can’t realize all ideas I have, but limitations are good sometimes to define the work.  The same light and perspective is extremely important to create a realistic result when combining the photos.

The final part is putting the photos together. This takes anything from a few days to several weeks.  This is actually the easiest step, if I did a good job in the first and second step. This part is like a puzzle, I have all the pieces, I just need to put them together.

Q: What is your background? Have you studied photography/retouch?

I studied computer engineer at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden 2005-2010. I graduated in 2010 with a master in Interaction Design.

I've always had a big interest for both drawing and computers. I think that is one if the reasons why it was a natural step for me to modify the photos in the computer. Photography and retouch always felt more like a hobby so I choose the engineering path instead. As I finished my studies in 2010 I already worked part time as a freelance doing work for some smaller jobs for advertisement agencies in Sweden. Although I still find interaction design and UX a very interesting subject, photography and retouch is my passion and what I love. That made me become photographer/retoucher on fulltime when I graduated.

Q: I want to learn to combine photos and photoshop like you do, what advice do you have?

I believe that the best way of learning is by trying, maybe you don’t learn the fastest or correct way, but at least you learn what the different tools do and what YOU can do with them. To become good requires a lot of patience and practice and there are no shortcuts. Try to find your style and search for tutorials online to get started on specific techniques. Good material is the key to get a good looking result, start shooting all the material yourself, you don't need a fancy camera to get started! Most importantly, don't create what you THINK people want, create what YOU want. Good luck, have fun!

Q: Do make any tutorials?

No, just google Photoshop tutorials. If you understand Swedish I would strongly recommend the Swedish website Moderskeppet. They have tons of resources and explain in a very simple understandable way. Their gold membership gives you access to tons of video tutorials in other Adobe softwares as well.

Q: Can I use or licence your photos for my album cover / book / presentation / product etc?

No, I don't licence my personal work. All my personal projects are not to be commercialized or connected to any product or brand in any way. It's important to me that they are stand alone projects without a connection to anything. If you like my style I do accept commissioned projects. Just get in touch with my Agent if you have a project in mind, contact info on the contact page.

Q: Do you accepts commissioned projects?

Yes, just contact my Agent if you have a project in mind, contact info on the contact page.

Q: Can I buy signed prints or posters of your personal work?

Yes! I have three different prints. A small open edition print, not signed or numbered. I also have limited edition prints available in two sizes and editions. All prints look great regardless the size. To find out more about the prints just have a look at the shop.

Q: Do you have a book about your work?

Yes! It's a beautiful book containing my best works so far. It's called "IMAGINE" and is available in many book stores and on You can find out a bit more about the book here.

Q: Do you work full time with photography and retouch?

Yes, I try to find time to work with personal projects as well but the commissioned projects are what I do for a living. Although my personal projects are what I love it’s fun and challenging to realize other peoples ideas as well. Sadly, I don’t spend as much time on my personal work as I would like to.

Q: How long does it usually take to realize one photo from idea to final piece?

It can take anything from a few weeks to several months. Some ideas requires even longer time as it’s hard to find the perfect spot to shoot or maybe it’s the wrong season. For commissioned projects with a hard deadline it's of course usually faster, normally a few weeks from "go" to final image.

Q: How would you describe your style?

Photo realistic surrealism. Surreal ideas realized in a realistic way with a touch of humor. I can’t really say that I've decided what I want my style to look like. It becomes what it becomes, I just realize the ideas that come to my mind and I didn't chose develop a specific style to make that happen.

Q: Does music play a role in your work?

Music is a very important part of my work. I always listen to music when I do the post production, mostly electronic music as it gets me into a good flow but it can be pretty mixed. Would you like to listen to what I listen to? Here are some playlists I created:

Q: What do you do when you're not working? Do you have any hobbies?

I go bouldering sometimes, running when I can and sometimes swimming in the morning. I used to practice Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for three years and I would love to take that up again. I enjoy good restaurants, playing guitar and seeing new places. I also like cat videos.

Q: What equipment do you use to create your images?

A short summary of the tools I use the most to create my photos:

  • Camera: Hasselblad H6D-50c

  • Lenses: Hasselblad 24mm, 35-90mm, 50mm, 120mm

  • Light: Elinchrom RX, Canon Speedlites, "the sun"

  • Monitor: Eizo Coloredge CG318-4k

  • Computer: Home-built PC, Windows 10

  • Softwares: Adobe Photoshop CC & Adobe Lightroom

Camera gear of 2017


Here are some online Interviews with Erik:

For more interviews check out this search engine.

Social Media

Stay updated with Erik's latest work by following him on social media. Erik is mostly active on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. But he also posts his work on Behance and 500px. Behind the scenes videos will show up on YouTube.

Even more info...

If there is something you don't find here feel free to get in touch with Erik,
contact details on the contact page under Direct contact.