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Gustav Tønnesen Portfolio

In skateboarding, you can find quite a lot of extroverted, loud, and colorful people who enjoy being in the limelight. Gustav Tønnesen doesn’t really fit this description, however. If he attracts attention, it’s only through his skating, which boasts a creativity and precision that is second to none. Other than that, he keeps it low key and is behind the camera rather than in front of it. His skill level there is pretty much the same. You’ve seen it in the Sour videos he made. He’s not only familiar with moving images but also has a passion for photography and, like everything he touches, does it with the highest of standards. You can see in his framing how every shot is well thought out. His photos radiate an aura of calmness and inner peace that also surrounds him. It feels like Gustav knows something we don’t know, and we are therefore delighted that he has given us a little insight into his world of photography.

You had already started with photography as a kid. How did you get into it?

My parents have always been into photography, mostly analog. I probably got interested by looking at their cameras and photos. I think I was 12 when they gave me a small digital camera and 14 when they gave me a Nikon DSLR camera. I was mostly shooting my friends skating. Then I got an analog Nikon SLR camera and a Holga a year or so after. When I was 18, my digital camera was stolen, and I’ve just been shooting film since then.

You’ve started with a Holga and now you shoot a lot with a Hasselblad. What do you like about medium format or XPan?

In the later years, I have been able to afford these cameras that I’ve always wanted. The Hasselblads for the equipment quality, the formats, and the signature frame with the little cuts, they add a classic feeling to me. When I was young, my mother pointed out that it’s nice to see the film frame of a photo to show that it’s the framing you chose when you took the photo. Since then, it’s been a challenge for me to always have the original frame, no cropping. I know anybody can spend some time in Photoshop with a digital photo and make it look like it was shot on film… but that process would be no fun for me. I like to play with different cameras and formats, but I think my favorite format is 6x6 (120 film square photos).

"I think everything looks better in B/W. There’s more focus on light, shape, and the moment."

A lot of your photos are black and white. What do you like about that?

Colors are usually not what I’m looking to capture. Unless what you’re shooting is full of beautiful colors or the color has a special meaning in the photo, I think everything looks better in B/W. There’s more focus on light, shape, and the moment. I still end up thinking that I need color film in one of the two or three cameras I bring when I go on a trip or something, but I mostly regret it.

It seems you never use a fisheye or wide angle. Why is that?

I don’t really like wide angles very much. I used to have a fisheye for my digital Nikon but I didn’t get to use it a lot before my camera was stolen. I just bought one for my analog Nikon now though, gonna be fun to try it!

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Creteil – France – Tri-X 400

Do you mostly take the camera out when you’re skating or on tour or do you also go out solely for shooting photos?

Mostly when I’m skating/traveling. I have also done two cycling trips alone, pretty much just to shoot photos. One was a week at Lanzarote and the other was three days in Ebro Delta.

I’d imagine that your work is concept-based. Are you working on some projects or are you shooting whatever looks interesting to you?

I mostly just shoot whatever I find interesting for myself, for fun. I’ve not had much of a concept or many projects so far, but maybe more in the future.

What’s the most rewarding moment for you? Getting an idea for a photo, taking the photo, editing the photo, printing, or sharing it?

Probably taking the film out of the developing reel and looking at the negatives, then scanning and seeing them bigger on my computer. I also started doing darkroom prints recently, which surely is rewarding.

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Niels Bennett – 180 Switch Crooked Grind

A lot of your photos feel like they were created in a slow, well-thought-out process. Even the more snapshot ones don’t look rushed or hectic. How would you describe your photo process?

Thank you! When I have the time, I also like to take my time and think a lot before shooting. Mostly, I’m with people, however, and they are being nice waiting for me, but I try to be done quickly. Also, lately I have been with an Olympus XA on me at all times, either in my pocket or in my hands. It’s got an aperture priority rangefinder but in a very small point-and-shoot body. I usually shoot film at 800 ISO, f/8, and zone focus, which makes it really easy and quick to shoot photos in the streets. Sometimes, I just aim with my hand and shoot.

You’re obviously great at skating. Then you started filming and you’re good at it too, same with photography. Are you talented with everything you touch or is it your work ethic that is getting you there?

Haha, well… It's probably because I have spent a lot of time doing those things. I get pretty nerdy with things and try my best.

What do you try to capture with your photography?

All of it. Skating, people, streets, nature, macro… special moments to keep the memory, or to try to make something look interesting. Something that makes me or others experience some kind of feeling, good or bad. I don’t think I’ll ever just settle on one genre of photography.

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Morocco – Portra 400 – XPan

What is the difference for you – both in capturing the moment and in the satisfaction you derive from it – between filming and photographing?

It’s all very similar, but photography is way more complex because I have it in and outside of skating a lot. Videography could also be a bit more that way some day, maybe.

You do quite a lot of nature shots. What do you enjoy about that?

I really like being in nature, relaxing or doing a pretty hard hike and camping, also seeing big shapes of mountains, trees and water, or small details. To me, it’s all so beautiful when I’m used to seeing dirty streets and buildings all the time.

You seem like somebody who has high-quality standards. I was wondering if you throw away a lot of photos in the end because they didn’t turn out how you like them. Or did you perfect your craft to a level that you know exactly what you want and how to get it and you just need one shot and it’s done?

In the situations where I have some time to think, it’s mostly like that. But that’s usually not the case. I like to shoot more than less but also not totally wasting film. Sometimes I’m pretty happy with almost all the shots on a roll of 12, 20, or 36 photos, and none of them are thrown away really. I have them all on negatives and scanned/edited, at least for myself to look at.

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Vincent Huhta – Backside Tailslide

You’ve worked together with great skate photographers. What were you able to learn from them for your own photography?

It’s great to have spent a lot of time over the years with some of the best photographers in the world – either when I’m skating or when I’m filming – and worked alongside them at the session. Nothing in particular, but I have for sure learnt a lot just from seeing them operate and also from having pretty nerdy conversations about photography with them.

Who are photographers you admire or what is your influence in photography?

There are so many skate photographers and other photographers I follow on Instagram… and my mother. I will mention Zander Taketomo, with whom I have shot a lot. He’s one of the very few still shooting skating on film and using the classic Hasselblad with a 30mm fisheye setup. These square fisheye photos have always been my favorites.

Is photography something you want to do as a profession in the future or is it something you want to keep as a hobby?

Hard to say… if the right possibilities came up, then yeah, for sure.