Jens Olof Lasthein „Meanwhile Across the Mountain“

Jens Olof Lasthein: Waiting for the Future, Winner of the 2010 Leica Oskar Barnack Award

The Leica Oskar Barnack Award carrying the name of the inventor of the 35mm camera has been granted since 1980 – in 2010 it was the Swedish photographer Jens Olof Lasthein who won. His award-winning series was titled Waiting for the Future - Pictures from Abkhazia and tells about the people in the Republic of Abkhazia in southern Caucasus. We spoke to him about his newly-published book and the centrepiece of his picture series.

What does winning the Leica Oskar Barnack Award mean to you?
I was surprised that my pictures were so appreciated that I would win the award – they are so undramatic. It encouraged me and the recognition was flattering. The other side of the coin was that I lost some of my clients. I found out later that they assumed I had become too expensive.

It is series that win the Barnack Award. What role do series play for you compared to individual pictures?
Individual pictures are always the centrepiece of a series, they must move the viewer. But a series can do more: using individual pictures to create a unit can increase the depth and nuances of a good series – the tempo can be speeded up and then slowed down again, the individual pictures support each other or have tension between each other – and thus the series can produce a more complex photographic vision.

What do photo books mean to you?
I think it’s the ideal way to bring together and present photographic works. For the author, the unlimited possibilities for presenting a story have great appeal; the biggest advantage for the viewer is the intimacy.

Did you always have the book in mind when you were photographing?
Yes, I did. Of course, I didn’t know what it would look like, I was very distant from all that. Since publishing my first book, however, I’ve discovered that book format is what best suits my long-term projects.

What’s the newly-published book, Meanwhile Across the Mountain, about?
In summary, it’s about the Caucasus, a complex and fascinating border region. Loaded with problems, it is still full of life. It’s about republics and break-away republics, about the people living there. It’s about daily life in the middle of the hard, political reality of unsolved wars and conflicts, that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union. In the end, it’s also about the general emotional state and frame of mind that result from a life full of tough circumstances.

What advice would you give young photographers?
I believe that we should be personal so as to touch other people. That’s why I would urge everyone to remain faithful to themselves, rather than follow some particular trend. At the same time, you need to be able to step outside your comfort zone and set off into the unknown, so as to gain new perspectives and abilities.

The book Meanwhile Across the Mountain is published by Max Ström.

Jens Olof Lasthein

Jens Olof Lasthein was born 1964 and has been working as a freelance photographer since 1992. He has held about 50 solo exhibitions around the world and published three books: Moments in Between about the Balkan wars in the 90ies, White Sea Black Sea about the borderland between eastern and western Europe, Home Among Black Hills with pictures from Charleroi in Belgium. His fourth book, Meanwhile Across the Mountain, with pictures from the Caucasus will be published during 2016 and will include the series from Abkhazia with which he won the Leica Oskar Barnack Award in 2010.