A VIKING EXPLORES HIS ROOTS

by Anne Telford

Andy Anderson has deep roots in the Swedish countryside. At the turn of the 20th century there was a mass migration from Sweden due to the economy. His paternal grandparents were part of that migration, settling in Oyster Bay, on the north shore of Long Island in New York. His grandfather Herbert Gustav Anderson was a steward on yachts owned by the Vanderbilt and Mellon families, creating a historical precedent for his grandson’s love of the water.

It’s no wonder Anderson is drawn to the stark beautiful landscape of northern Sweden, scoured by rocky peaks and frigid lakes. The endless light and the expansive vistas proved a perfect setting for a recent somewhat spontaneous fashion shoot in Swedish Lapland. And the trip gave him an opportunity for his 25-year-old son Zachary to see what that side of the family was all about.

Personality Is Key

Anderson is proof that to succeed in today’s competitive photographic market, you must distinguish not just your work, but your personality must also stand out. His people skills have led Anderson to many an adventure, and to great friendships. His recent trip started out as a query to Håkan Stenlund, PR director of the Swedish Lapland Visitors Board, to go fishing. “Håkan got me access to a lot of places. We traveled around the region for 10 days. We got helicopter rides into the backcountry. The land is kind of unknown to Americans,” Anderson explains. “Swedish Lapland is so much more undiscovered. It’s Minnesota with mountains!”

“I met Andy through his work,” Håkan relates. “I used to shoot photo essays for Gray’s Sporting Journal. And so did he. I remember some of his essays still. He was great at storytelling, creating content with his shots.

“The genesis of the trip was quite simple. He contacted me on Insta and said he wanted to go fishing. So we actually just set up a cast and blast through Swedish Lapland. But that all changed when he came. He liked the country and just started working. “I don’t even think he touched his fly rods!” Håkan says.

Timeless Landscapes

“It felt like the most magical place I’ve ever been,” Andy says. “I feel at home in big open places. I’m not a big city guy. Not even a chance.

“People know me for my landscape work,” Andy states, typically modest about his achievements. His award-winning campaigns for GoRV, “God Made a Farmer” Super Bowl commercial for RAM Trucks, and Liberty Mutual, demonstrate his expertise at lighting and composition, and give a glimpse into what makes him tick.

Little wonder that a timeless landscape in which everything recedes except the natural beauty and incredible light would appeal to his senses. It also gave him an opportunity to shoot local modeling talent in starkly beautiful settings.

In one frame from this recent shoot an isolated island is seen from above, a few small red traditional houses dotting its shores. The red color derives from the mineralization of the Falun copper mine. The end result is paint with a matte finish and translucent surface with coarse silicon dioxide crystals that reflect the sun. At evening the color almost glows.

Speaking of glowing, Andy was able to witness the famed northern lights.

“The aurora borealis was a light show on steroids. Zack and I sat outside one night smoking cigars, watching the light show.”

Lapland or Sapmi as it’s called by the indigenous Sami people who have inhabited the region for thousands of years, straddles several regional borders—Norway, Sweden, Finland, and into Russia’s Kola Peninsula. It’s a frontier not unlike the American West used to be. Perfect for someone who chooses to live in a remote location himself, Mountain Home, Idaho, once a stop on the Overland Stage line and home to less than 15,000 people.

“There was a familiarity that was nice to share with my son,” Andy says of the trip. It’s also turned into a long-term project to shoot more work for the tourist board.

Capturing the Arctic Lifestyle

Given its remote location and short growing season, tourism has become increasingly important in this region of Sweden. “In the beginning the purpose of the trip was mostly fun hogging,” Håkan shares. “But that is changing. I hope Andy will come back. I like his pictures and I also love his energy. He is always working, coming up with new ideas. His style is different.

“So what I like is if he can capture what he sees the way he finds it. I love Swedish Lapland and the arctic lifestyle we live. But I’m used to it and have lost a bit of awe. With Andy’s shoots I hope to get some awesomeness in the picture, “Håkan writes me, as he is about to board a plane. For Andy Anderson, awesome is not a problem. And from the look of it in these beautiful images, it’s not a problem for Swedish Lapland either.

Here are some links to learn more about Swedish Lapland:

Sami Eco Adventures

Abisko Mountain Lodge

The Original ICEHOTEL

Fishing Sorsele

SO YOU WANT TO BE A PHOTOGRAPHER

You always hear kids say “Dad, I want to be like you when I grow up” and you never think twice about it. Well, that’s just what my son Zach Anderson has done. From the early age of 14, when he lied about his age to work in a movie theater in our small town, to summer film schools and than being accepted in to the prestigious film school at the Santa Fe University of Art and Design, he has always had a passion for film and photography.

In those early years, Zach always traveled with me in the summer to locations throughout the world and that’s where his passion began. Our house always encouraged our children’s interest, and I guess on him, maybe it all worked.

His work is very different from mine, which I guess I love the most. His images show sensitivity to his subject and his early influences. Well here, see for yourself.

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So why do you want to be a photographer?

I grew up around it my entire life and I’m absolutely obsessed with it.  It’s in my blood and I honestly can’t see myself doing anything else AT ALL.  All I want to do is create, succeed and leave my footprint in the field.  Like I said, there isn’t anything remotely conceivable I could see myself doing other than photography.  Nothing makes me happier than being on the road and shooting, absolutely nothing.  I’m 24 years old and it’s all in or nothing and that’s just how it is, there is no other option in my head other than being a photographer.  Having assisted many great photographers and traveling along side them as their 1st assistant reinforces the drive I have to live my dream as a photographer.

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What are your influences?

My influences stem from a lot of places.  From films to music to the people I chose to surround myself with and share my life experience.  I have been going to shows and festivals religiously since I was 16 and I have always gravitated to the weird and misfit characters those environments attract, because I too am one of those people, a misfit.  I think you have to be a student of the world and always be eager to learn.  Cinematographers and photographers influence me.  Emanuel Lubezki I think is a genius, his cinematography is profoundly beautiful and groundbreaking.  I am really inspired by Annie Leibovitz, her range of style is really breathtaking.  She definitely has had an influence.  Also I am truly in love with Ryan McGinley’s work, he is a hero of mine. We as image-makers are only as good as your last shoot or photograph.

You have to always be moving the ball forward, never be stagnant or just start phoning it in, because you’ve found something that works and is getting you assignments.  To me that just sounds creatively boring and depressing and I think it’s easy to fall into, so I am always very mindful of that.  I mean photography and creating are my drugs.  There is nothing more invigorating than pushing the envelope with a shoot or a test, seeing your results and being blown away.  You have to always be inspired. Inspiration is everywhere the eye can see.

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You started your studies in Film but why the change in direction creatively?

Yeah, I started my freshman year of college as a Filmmaking or MOV Major (Moving Image Arts) and a Photography Minor at the Santa Fe University of Art and Design, formally known as the College of Santa Fe.  Pretty quickly in the first semester I decided that this was not where I wanted to focus all of my energy and rather just focus on photography, because I had more or less the creative control of articulating my vision, whereas in film it seemed to me that wasn’t the case.  Photography allowed me to create the beautiful images that I had in my head on my own terms.  And I figured I could move up the ladder creatively much quicker than I could in film.  And there is something more Zen about photography than film.

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You have interned at Outside, Men’s Journal and Rolling Stone. Tell me what your experience was and how it has influenced your work?

Well, I think the most obvious benefit of interning at a magazine is seeing how everything operates.  From portfolios being sent in, assignments being given/delivered and all the way to running final designs down for publication.  It’s a whirlwind crash course that cannot be given in college; you have to be there in the thick of it.  The most intense was Rolling Stone, because the magazine has an issue hitting the stand every other week, so it’s a lot of work and there are a lot of images/stories being worked on; but it was one of the best and most rewarding experiences I’ve had as an intern.  Deborah Dragon is a force of nature in the magazine world and an amazing woman/mentor to me.  I owe a lot of what I know about the magazine/editorial world to her.  Interning at magazines influenced my work in the sense of presentation and design.  Photo editors and designers want to see your portfolio presented in a thoughtful way.  So the image(s) you are sending need to not only be striking, but the presentation and design of your mailer/logo needs to be killer too. They get countless mailers everyday (I know, I had to sort them out) and you want yours to be one they keep at their desk or hang on their wall. That is done by not only the beautiful image but also your logo design and presentation.  I mean they work insane hours to bring us tangible, beautiful stories and images to enjoy, so it’s a kind gesture when your mailers are sent to them in a personal and beautiful way and it also acknowledges that you appreciate their work and hinting that you would be a good collaborator to their creative process. It definitely influenced my creative and professional etiquette.

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Where do you see yourself in 5, 10, 20 years?

Well I gotta get to the 5 year mark first haha.  Like I said before, I am 24 years  old and just trying to get my name and footing out in the field.   I can’t wait to  work with other creatives and make absolutely great campaigns and wonderful  editorial pieces.  By the end of this year I hope to be done with assisting.  I feel as if I am ready to make the jump, and I couldn’t be anymore excited for the road ahead.

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Who or what is the dream subject you want to shoot?

Photography and Music go hand in hand for me.  I am completely and utterly obsessed with them.  To the point I’m sure I drive people crazy at times.  There are many musicians that I would absolutely do anything for an opportunity to work with and take their portrait.  A current dream subject I would love to photograph is Lana Del Rey.  I love how enigmatic and detached her persona is.  Here music is beautifully haunting and that emulates from her look and style.  I think I would have an absolute hey day working with her on an album promo or an editorial assignment.  My mind runs a million miles a minute but in an intensely focused way.  So many ideas and dream subjects come up and I do plan an fulfilling as much of them as I can and hopefully wonderful creatives will give me the opportunity to do so.

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To see more of Zach’s work visit www.zachandersonphoto.com.