Betting on minimalistic style to win the prize. Interview with Car Photographer of the year Patrik Johall
A Swedish automotive, lifestyle and commercial photographer, Patrik Johall was titled Car Photographer of the year in Production Paradise Spotlight Awards 2020 (for the second time!) His creativity and masterful technique stood out among hundreds of submissions reviewd by our judges. This year the panel included Claudio Eduardo Vieira, Creative Director at Publicis (Renault), France; Rod Henriques, Executive Creative Director at BBDO, Germany; Christopher Stahl, Producer, Director, DoP at Volkswagen of America, USA; Angela Barilaro, Photo Editor at BMW / Lamborghini Magazine, Germany; Agustín de Tena, Editor at Car & Driver / Hearst, Spain; and Cihan Eryilmaz, Senior Art Director at C14torce DDB, Spain.
Read the interview with Patrik to learn the story of his winning image, peek behind the scenes of the photoshoot and more.
Production Paradise: Tell us about the winning image – the idea behind it, how was it shot?
Patrik Johall: The assignment from Volvo Cars was to create a studio environment that resembled a grand architectural setting. The car was to be the hero, but everything was to be reduced to the max. It was something new in the automotive industry, but it came with a challenge – to construct a setting that would allow us to keep it as real as possible. There were tons of work, but I’m really pleased that everything in the image was created in camera, with minimum set extension and post work.
Production Paradise: How do you feel about winning the Category Prize of Spotlight Awards 2020?
Patrik Johall: It’s a big honour for me, and it proves we are progressing in the right direction and are relevant. In my mind the best automotive/lifestyle photographers around the globe enter the competition, and it’s also a great chance to be seen in the industry.
Production Paradise: How would you describe your style?
Patrik Johall: Reduced, minimalistic and authentic. I try to stay away from the artificial, and I like to work in natural conditions. It reflects who I am and where I live, I like to be close to nature and that probably has an influence on my style.
Production Paradise: Name three photographers that have inspired you.
Patrik Johall: Anton Corbijn, Frederik Lieberath and Camilla Akrans.
Production Paradise: How did you end up behind the lens? Tell us about your career path.
Patrik Johall: I started as a traditional illustrator, turning into a graphic designer and ended up in an advertising agency to climb the ladder and finally become a creative director.
After a few years working with a number of photographers I believed photography looked more interesting and faster, so I started my own business in 2003 and focused on the combination of CGI and Photography. From this point I slowly turned into a lifestyle/automotive photographer/director. I made some smart choices, but for me career is mostly gut feeling. Automotive photography brings me close to settings and objects that resonate with my interests and my aesthetic.
Production Paradise: What do you think is necessary to become a successful commercial photographer?
Patrik Johall: For me it always been important to adapt to given conditions, not only budgets but also weather, change of plans and so on. And also to listen to the clients and try my best to deliver on their promises. I also believe you need to work with the best team around you, reps, assistants, post production. But it’s also important to understand all of the process. I made a ton of post work and producing myself, so now it’s easier for me to know what to ask for, and also project your vision to someone else.
Production Paradise: If you weren’t a photographer, what would be your alternate career path?
Patrik Johall: I would love to be an architect, but I really can see myself doing anything that makes me and others smile once in a while. The key to success is to have an amount of fun at work, especially when you are supposed to be creative. I also run an outdoor shop called vildland.com, and this is something I really can see myself spending even more time on in the future.
Production Paradise: We believe you are not resting on your laurels – what are you working on now?
Patrik Johall: Due to the current situation we make more and bigger productions at home in Sweden, we just finished a huge studio job for Volvo Cars in our own studio. And I am also working with some other brands combining products and lifestyle. We are fortunate to be able to work with a number of amazing clients, and also tune and adapt our business to fit the current situation.
Production Paradise: Spotlight Awards had a judges’ panel composed of potential clients for commercial photographers – did that influence your choice of image(s) selected for your entry?
Patrik Johall: Not directly, I tried to select two images representing the work I do and also adding a new flavour to automotive photography. This field is kind of slow moving and traditional. But this years’ shortlist really showed some movement in the visual language of the industry.
Production Paradise: What made you want to participate in these Awards?
Patrik Johall: I don’t really participate in many awards, but Spotlight Awards is really relevant the best photographers enter the competition. It’s a good place to be seen. It’s very honouring just to be shortlisted. I won the category two years ago and it really made a difference in my career.