Good grades, then good job – Tommy Ingberg (born 1980) obediently lived up to the expectations of the society. The Swedish computer engineer settled into a safe non-challenging “normal” life. For some time, he quite enjoyed the repetitive existence of grueling weekdays and weekend parties. But soon he realised that there was something missing. He aspired to do more but couldn’t figure out what or how. In his late twenties, he lost direction and began spiraling downwards. Hit rock bottom. And photography, which had up till then just remained a hobby, suddenly became art. A sort of therapy.
Tommy likes creating what he calls “minimalistic and self-reflecting surreal photo montages dealing with human nature, feelings and thoughts”. “For me,” he says, “surrealism is about trying to explain something abstract like a feeling or a thought, expressing the subconscious with a picture. For my work I use my own inner life, thoughts and feelings as seeds to my pictures. In that sense the work is very personal, almost like a visual diary. Despite this subjectiveness in the process I hope that the work can engage the viewer in her or his own terms. I want the viewers to produce their own questions and answers when looking at the pictures, my own interpretations are really irrelevant in this context.”
Regarding his influences, Tommy explains: “I consume a lot of art and my influences have been many and diverse. Early on, when I was getting into photography, it was masters like Cartier-Bresson, Leiboviz, Erwitt, Brassai and so on, to many to name. When I started doing photomontages I started to learn more about the great painters and artists from other fields, like Warhol, Picasso, Magritte, Miró and Escher. I have learnt a lot both as an artist and as a person by studying greatness in all fields of art be it music, photography, painting, poetry or anything else. It is very humbling to look at your own work in that context. Right now I’m reading a book on Van Gogh, one on Banksy and one on the history of African art.”
On his creative process, Tommy elaborates: “I don’t believe creativity is something that “strikes” you, but rather something you have to work actively on. I’m nowhere near to fully understanding my own creative process, but I do have a work flow I follow. I try to schedule creative sessions of one or two hours a couple of times each week where I don’t do any actual work. In these sessions I shield myself from the outside world and the distractions of everyday life and try to come up with ideas. I believe for creativity to happen I need to be in a calm, playful and open mindset where I can focus and hear myself think. This is easier said than done, it takes a lot of effort to force yourself to take this time to not think about or do anything else.
“How I come up with specific ideas is hard to describe and very different from time to time, basically I just let my mind wander and sketch down ideas in a notebook. Sometimes I start with a visual aspect, like something I photographed, or something in front of me (I’ve noticed there are a lot of hands in my pictures for this reason) but most of the times I start with a thought or a feeling and take it from there. It is very much an unconscious flow, and all I really can do is to make time for it.
“When I have a somewhat finished idea of what I want to do, I proceed by photographing the source material and then putting it all together in Photoshop and proof printing. This process takes about one to three weeks, with somewhere around 8-16 hours of actual work on each piece. I try to not do all work on one picture in one sitting, but rather have a lot of time between sessions. This way I get to look at it in different mindsets and moods, and get enough time to think through every detail.”
Tommy’s work is a kind of monochromatic visual diary that illuminates an individual’s struggles and strengths, habits and ambitions, their state of mind and place in the world. He feels that in today’s fast moving and very superficial society anything that makes you stop and think for a while is very important. That being said, he has not really thought about his own art in a larger context like that.
The photographs have won several awards internationally and have been featured in numerous publications. Tommy’s website is www.ingberg.com. You can also find him on: