We meet Sarah in her home in Malmö, where she’s recently moved back to upon finishing a degree in photography up north in Gothenburg. The apartment she moved into, though not entirely finished just yet, already has “photographer” written all over it. A small collection of nice-looking analog cameras on the shelf, photography books, tripods, and camera bag in the corner, and by the time we’re done, the entire floor is covered in precious handmade color prints produced during countless late-night sessions in her old university’s darkroom. The last time we worked closely with Sarah, she was the guest editor of issue 28 and used the platform to push predominantly female actors into the limelight. Since then, not only has the industry changed but also her career, surroundings, and focus. Time for a catch-up!
I love getting a trick on a spot close to where I live because when you walk past it, you can be a little satisfied you actually made it. I’ve lived in a lot of places, often in a way that I lived somewhere for a month, three months, half a year sometimes. So whenever you have a new home, you’re going to walk past spots.
I moved back here in January, I was there for six years.
Yes, the scene is different! I’ve seen it gradually change because I’ve been here skating and visiting friends. However, living here now, it’s really nice to be a part of the scene as it has developed. There’s way more diversity, that’s the change that I feel most excited about. Also, there is so much going on for a small city. Bryggeriet as a skate highschool and as a skatepark in itself is also doing so much. Plus the way the city of Malmö actually collaborates with the skaters. There are new additions to the group of friends I used to have earlier. It’s changed in a nice way, but it’s not like it’s blown out or overly commercialised. There’s just a lot of good stuff going on.
"I also have this strong feeling that I don’t want to spend a whole winter here ever again."
Yes and that’s the difference from when I was growing up here! I didn’t feel that happening. When I was 18 years old, I had to travel to see other girls that would go for that progression. It’s cool with Bryggeriet in winter, every Monday and Thursday you have women and trans skate sessions. That really brings the scene together. You get to know each other more intensely during the winter because it’s everyone’s routine. It’s really inspiring to see that, I felt it really strongly when I came back, like, “Wow, I’m so hyped to skate with all of these girls!”
It’s been really nice to land here and be close to my family again. Something I miss about Gothenburg is that nature is really close by. In Malmö, I feel stuck in the city. I have a strong feeling that I want to stay, but I also have this strong feeling that I don’t want to spend a whole winter here ever again.
It’s inside a mountain! It looks really cool, a very unique place. But there’s definitely some sort of mold and dust issues. A certain smell about it. We always joke that if you’ve been there and you come back home, you smell like the mountain. It has a really good hip, I miss that one.
I lived there when I was 24. I was skating for WeSC from when I was 17 to 25. It was crazy being sponsored by them, they used to do really big parties and spend a bunch of the budget on weird things. As a 17-year-old, I got invited to that, just being at these fancy dinners. I never had dinner with three forks before. People start spending money on you in a weird way.
I could never make a living off of skateboarding until I got sponsored by Nike, which was when I was 25. Up until then, I always did something parallel to skating, either studied or worked. When I applied for the school in Gothenburg and got in, I felt very fortunate because it’s pretty hard to get in. Around that same time, I was in Malmö and Danijel [Stankovic] asked me, “So Nike is going to start putting some work into women’s skateboarding. We’d be interested in seeing if you wanted to be on the team.” That was the shift when I was starting to study photography and got on Nike and it became more serious both ways. It was pretty mellow at first, we didn’t travel that much and I was full-on studying. At the same time, my contract with Nike started at one level and since I did well, I guess, they did an ad with me for the women’s Bruin, and afterwards, I got a better contract. So I realized it was serious. When I did my final year, I had a hard time. I was trying to film a part and write my bachelor’s thesis, it was really stressful! When I finished university, I felt like I wanted to skate for a while, so I put all my effort into skating again and started filming for Nike SB’s Gizmo.
"Photography helped me in a lot of ways to keep skateboarding interesting."
I’m still trying to find a routine on how to build up my day. I’m freelancing with skateboarding and photography, making my own schedule. Skating comes naturally, you want to move, exercise, and see friends while skating. It’s pretty easy to go skate, especially in a city like this where there are so many skaters, it’s a part of life! Photography-wise, it goes in periods. I put it on the side sometimes, but I always shoot photos, it never really stops. Sometimes I get photo jobs or assignments, and then it’s easy to put time and effort into it because someone else is telling you to do it. Working on my own projects and artistic practice is a bit more difficult. Sometimes I put it on the side, sometimes I really need it because I need to be creative. Photography helped me in a lot of ways to keep skateboarding interesting.
I’m really inspired by photo books and I feel it’s a nice way to deep dive into someone else’s perspective. I like the tactile side of holding something in your hands as well as the fact you keep it and come back to it years later. You can kind of ponder about it, think about it, and then it can affect you in different ways. Making one has been a goal. Some projects work well for exhibitions, some are good to make a video out of it, and some are good for a smaller thing, but I felt like this one was good for a book.
I did a course on publications with the goal to make a publication at the end. During that process, I was trying to look at the photographs I had taken the past year to see what I am drawn to or what I’ve been thinking about unintentionally. That’s how I started selecting photographs. I find it hard to explain. Sometimes explanations kind of take the magic out of it. I saw a theme and noticed that this has been on my mind. I started taking more of those photographs and becoming more aware. It became a pattern after a while. Since I’ve been doing it for three years now, I’m hoping there are enough photos to tell a story.
When I was 24 I did a pre-educational “studies of fine art photography” course here in Malmø before applying to university. I got to use the darkroom, but it was all black-and-white. That was my first time processing my own photos and making my own prints – a whole new way of getting to know photography. That year was really cool, we got to experiment with so many things: we did cyanotype, photograms, all kinds of cameraless work. I was going wild. I printed on overhead transparencies and me and my friend did this experimental thing together where we painted our bodies, so the UV light would actually make the photograph on our bodies. Weird stuff like that.
I think so! It was a really fun year of trying everything. Going into university, it became way more serious. You were supposed to find your way to actually work with this. I found the color darkroom at the university and started working and experimenting in there. My exam project for the school in Malmö was something I called “televisionograms.” They were photograms using light sensitive photo paper in the dark, attached to an old TV. I was exposing the paper to different news shows. It would just be this abstract pattern from the TV in black-and-white, and then I would add the headlines from whatever news there was. I brought some of those ideas with me into the color darkroom while still having this interest in more figurative photographs as well. It’s kind of therapeutic too, to ponder about things you have to process in some way.
I’ve definitely done a lot of therapeutic things. Things you just need to make something out of to get it out of your body. A lot of those creative things you do to process stuff happens in the beginning of your artistic practice, at least for me. When you’ve done that and looked inside yourself, you can start looking outside and start making art that reflects more on the world. Bigger things outside of yourself.
I did an album cover when I was still in photo school and got paid for that. It was a picture they selected that I’d already shot, but I think it was the first time I got paid. My first larger job was shooting this catalog for CHPO Brand. I did that a couple of times.
Since back then, the industry has changed even more. There is way more representation of female, trans and non-binary skaters. It’s still something I think is different and cool, but it happens way more than it did three years ago. I was just asking people I was inspired by who I think would be cool to have photographs of in the mag and who I didn’t usually see being represented. But now I see it happening more, and bigger brands doing more campaigns about it. It’s very contemporary to have your thumbs up for equality, which is great. We live in a world that’s capitalist. People are going to follow what the brands do if they make an example.
They were asking me for my point of view because I’ve been there for so many years in a row. What it was like last year and how we can make it better. It’s hard. A contest is always a contest. So many people watching, it’s rowdy and crazy. I suggested that when they’re selecting spots to skate, to have different levels to skate it. Even some of the guys like skating something a little smaller. If there’s a kicker, maybe you can have two versions of the kicker; or if there’s a super tall manny pad, maybe you can have a smaller one next to it. The other part is, it’s crazy to take up that space in the contest. Even as a male skater, you have to be pretty pushy in an event like that when there’s a bunch of people. Last year, they selected ten or fifteen names and were like, “You’re going to skate now, you’re going to skate now, you’re going to skate…” That gives them the ability to have their turn and pushes them a bit. I told them that’s what they have to do too if they want to see some girls skate. You gotta call out the names and give them their time and space. That and having it more in the schedule and put an effort into it. That makes a big difference. I had a similar thing with Nike SB. I was being interviewed in front of a hundred different skate shops on how to make a skate shop more inclusive and broaden the variety of customers in there. It’s nice to be able to say something, and maybe some people will listen.
The owners of the skate shops think about it more now because they are more aware of their role. There’s more female representation within skate shops whether being sponsored or working in the shop. Sometimes skate shops can be intimidating. I used to only go into the skate shop when I needed something. I really wanted to just go and just hang out, but I was too modest, too shy. I only went when I had to buy something. I needed a reason to be there, I thought, but I was super welcome there. It was just in my head.
"I know I have the power to say no. If I don’t want to go somewhere with certain people, I don’t have to."
I’ve been in a lot of different kinds of vans. Sometimes it’s terrible, but mostly it’s been good. If you’re the only person of your gender, you’re going to feel like a bit of an outsider, even if just subconsciously. When I was younger, I was in some vans where I heard some shit that made me feel really uncomfortable. I wouldn’t really put myself in that situation again, because I know I have the power to say no, that if I don’t want to go somewhere with certain people, I don’t have to. The people I hang out with nowadays are really great. I think it’s good that people are more aware of it and if someone says something inappropriate, you can tell the person. But yes, I’ve heard some shady stuff. I think if I heard that now, I would react and be confident enough to actually confront that person. When I was younger, I didn’t think I could. You look up to these people.
I don’t want to mention any names, but yes, for sure. I’m not going to out anyone, I’m sure they are trying to do better now.
That’s what I’m saying. Nowadays, I’m in a good place and I wouldn’t be on WKND if I felt that way. They are really nice. I’m actually surprised by how nice they are. Really good different personalities, you can talk about anything and I feel like I can be myself.
"If you’re just skating for fun, you can choose your tricks accordingly, but if you’re filming and pushing yourself, you’re going to get hurt."
I wasn’t skating for anyone up until last year. I was skating a WKND board, just trying it out, and they saw it and contacted me and it naturally fell into place. It became more than I expected! I didn’t really know what was going to come out of them just sending me boards at first. They came here and we skated for a bit, just Grant [Yansura], Andrew [Considine] and the Scandinavians that skate for them. It was at a time in my life when I was really open to change, open to do something else. Going to L.A. and spending time with them there felt really welcoming. I was there for a month. Karsten [Kleppan], Filip [Almqvist] and I shared an Airbnb and we spent Thanksgiving with them. At the end of the trip, we went to Florida for the premiere of the clip that turned Andrew pro. We stayed at Grant’s parents’ house, they were really cute. It’s so nice to meet someone’s parents. We were hardly even skating, just at the beach drinking beers.
I had an operation almost two years ago. I had a difficult hot-pocket issue due to twisting it so many times. A pretty simple surgery: they scrape off uneven parts of your bone, so it won’t interfere anymore. I did half a year of rehab and couldn’t skate. In August when WKND came here, it was the first time I felt like I could actually skate. It’s such a mental thing. I was good for a couple months, and then in L.A. in November, I twisted it on a trick I didn’t really know how to do. I came back to Sweden and did a bunch of rehab, still skating the indoor skatepark so much. I just stopped doing flip tricks. I felt pretty good and then I twisted it five weeks ago when I was carrying laundry up my staircase. I move pretty quickly and clumsy sometimes. Talking about injuries is not really inspiring, I feel like I talk about it way too much sometimes.
You try to work around it, that’s what I do as well. It’s just a part of it. I’m just like, “Okay, rehab.” If you’re just skating for fun, you can choose your tricks accordingly, but if you’re filming and pushing yourself, you’re going to get hurt.
I like big areas, a surface where you can go fast and far. Just the feeling of that is really nice. For filming and photos, I get really inspired if a spot looks good – aesthetically pleasing in a crusty way. I really like skating slappies, it’s super fun. In L.A., there are some parking lots where it’s amazing. I like finding paths, sometimes you gotta go around the edge of a corner to get to a spot, so getting there is hard. Or you have to wallie something in order to get on top of something. I like basic tricks and I like when it feels good. Sometimes a trick can give you a good feeling even if you don’t land it and you can just keep on trying until you ultimately land it.
It was probably during the Polaroid shoot I did with Nike SB in Barcelona. I shot photos of Brian Anderson, which I was really nervous about at first. I shot some in L.A. too. Whenever we’ve been with WKND and there wasn’t a photographer around, I took my camera and shot some photos. I got this really nice one of Karsten doing this amazing kickflip over a bin.
I’m excited to learn more and become better at skate photography. I’ve been gearing up. Every time I have a photo job, I buy something new, a new lens or a flash. It’s a good challenge to try something new.
I’ll start gathering then!