self-portraits by Lina Scheynius
interview by Marta Galli


Self-portrait of Lina Scheynius

“I am going to spend the Summer in a cabin in the woods in sweden and I am not taking my telephone with me: for a couple of months nor e-mail or phone calls could reach me. I will work on my new book while I am away.”

That’s how young and successful Swedish-born/London-based photographer Lina Scheynius has announced her imminent leave a few months ago when we reached her for the interview. The book she mentions is “07” — that’s how she has titled it according to the previous ones simply numbered.
Lina got into the world of photography pretty naturally and today she passes from the private recording of her life to fashion smoothly: the intimacy and spontaneity of her beautiful pictures is just her signature. Through photography she is documenting, analyzing, and keeping together the pieces of her life, like visual notes of experiences and moments frozen to last. She’s often the center of this world, often in front of a camera where she has been since the day she was sent to Milan, at 16, to start her modeling career.

Lina has pale and transparent skin and strawberry blonde hair — as she described herself — she’s enigmatic like Ingmar Bergman’s women. Although she gets people incredibly close to her personal life through photography, and despite the intimacy of her images, Lina remains some sort of mystery.

MG Where were you born?
LS In Vänesborg Sweden.

MG What is the best memory of your childhood?
LS Playing in the forest behind my house. How the trees would turn into houses and shops and swings and trolls and anything you could imagine.

MG If you have to describe yourself, both the way you look and your personality, what would you say?
LS I am shy but confident. And tall and pale with strawberry blonde hair and a massive smile.

MG Do you think you look more like your father or your mother?
LS My father, definitely.

MG When did you start taking pictures? And when did you start taking pictures of yourself?
LS I started taking pictures on my 10th birthday when I got my first camera from my parents. I am pretty sure I took my first picture of myself that day too. Of my reflection in the mirror and my feet.

MG You were working as a model. Have you ever felt uncomfortable in front of the camera?
LS Yes, I actually went through a phase after quitting modeling when I felt incredibly uncomfortable in front of cameras. I had had my picture taken so much and it was associated with work. I felt like I had reached some sort of limit. I didn’t mind family album pictures, but whenever someone would ask me to pose in any way it got really hard for me. I am still not completely over this to be honest. I was also uncomfortable right in the beginning when I started modeling because I felt like I had no idea what I was doing.




MG Do you feel comfortable with having images of yourself and of your life on the internet without knowing where they are going to end up?
LS For some reason I do, yes. But when you ask me this and I have to think about it, it makes me a little uneasy. So far so good though.

MG When do you take self-portraits?
LS Probably when I have some time to kill. When there is nothing distracting me. I take a lot of pictures when I am alone.

MG Is the self-portrait a sort of therapy?
LS Probably. I started to really do it while I was modeling in Hamburg and I had been told by my agent that I needed to lose weight. I felt lonely, bored, unsuccessful, fat and photographing myself sort of just made sense.

MG What do you think of the Instagram generation and the current mania for “selfies?”
LS To be honest I have just reached my limit and am bored with it. I have seen too many selfies lately. Have I taken too many too? Not sure yet.

MG The pictures you take seem like an intimate diary. Do you keep other forms of diaries?
LS Yes I write. It is almost more important to me than the pictures.

MG Do you write about specific matters?
LS I recently read my diary and it’s a lot about love problems.

MG When did you start to work in fashion? What was your first fashion job and how did it happen?
LS A photographer friend of mine told me I should try fashion since I had access to models. To be honest, I was a little reluctant about shooting fashion, but I thought he might have a point and it might be worth a shot. I asked a couple of friends if I could photograph them. Amanda and Julian. And Amanda if she would do the styling. She knew someone at an organic lifestyle magazine in Sweden and they agreed to publish the results. We took a bus to Hampstead Heath with a bag of ethical fashion clothes and I took pictures of them while they pretended to be boyfriend and girlfriend. We took a massive amount of pictures that we were excited about, but it only got one spread in the magazine. I also published them online though and loads of people liked them and reblogged them and not long after an agent in New York got in touch and I was shooting Mariacarla for another magazine. This was in 2008. It sounds so easy now when I retell it and in some ways it was, but it also wasn’t.

MG Being a photographer feels more like a chance or a destiny?
LS Feels pretty much like chance. I had dreamt of it happening, but I had also dreamt of other things.

MG If you were not a photographer, what would you be?
LS I’ve studied science, so probably something related to that.

MG What and who are your sources of inspiration?
LS Little things in life. Light is a big one. How light can and does change things. I also consume tons of images and I am inspired by other photographers like Araki and by artists like Marina Abramovic. Love Jochen Lempert and Esther Teichmann at the moment too.

MG What is the subject you prefer?
LS Things near and dear to me.

MG Which place do you consider home?
LS Both Sweden and London. I always feel like coming home when I go to either of those places.

MG What do you do as a first thing when you land to a new place?
LS I try to get some sleep. Sleeping is super important for me.

MG What was the most difficult part of growing up?
LS Having to do things I don’t want to do just to make money was hard.

MG What do you miss the most of your past life?
LS Fresh air. Nature.

MG What do you dream about when you close your eyes?
LS Dancing. Which is weird because I hardly ever dance.

MG The best piece of advice you have been given.
LS Stop using your flash.

MG If you had to choose someone to be you in a film, who would it be?
LS Nicole Kidman.

MG What music helps you to get inspired?
LS Everything by Nick Cave.

MG What is the picture you are most proud of taking?
LS Maybe the one with the ray of light along my spine.

MG Where do you feel most free?
LS London, or when I’m traveling some place very far away from home.



Self-portrait of Lina Scheynius