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We recently got the chance to catch up with Staff Pro and more importantly, long-term friend of f-stop, Jesper Gronnemark. Jesper trained in photography at the Media College Denmark in Viborg and specializes in shooting sports for advertising. He loves the storytelling aspect of photography, and for more than 10 years he has been traveling the world, shooting exciting events and sports with big brands for advertising and editorial customers. Alongside all this, Jeper somehow finds the time for personal projects. He uses these personal shoots to push the limits of his photographic imagination, and in the last few months these projects went viral.
Read on to learn about the reality of making these shoots happen, the theme he is following, and his plans for the next one...
Jesper, your main area of work is in the sports industry and we often see your work featured from big events and with great athletes, but today we'd like to talk a bit more about your personal projects. How often do you get to work on these types of projects, and how do you combine this with your regular work?
I put a lot into my personal projects. To me they are a good way to try new techniques and evolve as a photographer. It doesn’t matter that much if the shoot doesn't goes as planned, because there isn't a paying client who needs the images. It’s all for myself. In that way do I feel that I can go right to the edge and sometimes across. That is how I evolve the most in my opinion.
I set a goal to myself at the start of 2017: I wanted to undertake 6 personal projects within that year. To me a personal project is a shoot where I shoot for myself and not for a paying client. I can do what I want, without being held accountable. It can be a large setup which takes several days to execute or a small shoot that is done in a couple of hours.
Actually, by the end of the year I reached 19 different personal projects in 2017. I’m pretty impressed by that myself! I think I had the greatest year of my life as a photographer so far. Combining these personal projects with my regular work isn't always easy, but I think it’s a question of prioritizing - I don’t spend much time hours watching TV or doing things like that.
In the last few months you had two very interesting projects. One was the Wake Boarding in the canals in Copenhagen and the second one was the Sky Diving Shoot which attracted a lot of attention and was shared by Red Bull, Fstoppers, Petapixel etc. How did those prejects get started?
I wanted to shoot skydiving ever since I did my first skydive. To be honest didn't I want to do the jump again, but the idea was stuck in my head. I got the chance to do the shoot with the help of the Danish national skydiving team, Flux Free Fly, Michael Boe Laigaard and Aarhus skydive club.
Actually, when the time came for the shoot, it had to be postponed because of too much wind. I had already gathered together an awesome team to document it all. So instead of disappointing everyone, I went back to my shooting idea list and picked the next idea - the wakeboarding shoot. The wakeboarding shoot went really well and the weather got better, so I was able to do the skydive shoot a few weeks after.
You just released your explosion photoshoot. You seem to be pushing the limits with every new project. Can you give us some behind-the-scenes insight into how you managed to organize this one? I’m sure there must be an interesting story from the logistics of trying to blow things up!
Thank you! At least, pushing the limits is what I’m trying to do. The idea was already there and I had already asked the athlete, Mike Jensen, if he wanted to join the project... so it really came down to finding three more things to pull it together; the right location, special effects guys who wanted to be a part of the project, and a day were the weather was good. It can be quite hard to find a day when it isn't raining in Denmark in the winter time, and the special effects guys need to ask for approval from the police 14 days before they can do an explosion. So you are taking quite a chance to pick a shooting day 14 days ahead and collect the entire team together, when you can’t predict the weather 2 minutes ahead of time.
There were a lot of people involved in the explosion project, and it takes quite a lot of time to organize a shoot that requires so many people. First, I needed to get hold on the special effects guys (Nordic Effects), then Mike Jensen. Then Nordic Effects needed to get the approval from the police to do the explosions, and I needed approval for the location, videographers needed to book the date and so on... We were going back and forth, making a lot of phone calls and writing a lot of e-mails. I guess it took up a week of work to make all this happen.
If we take your last few projects, first one was in water, second one was in the air and now you’re playing with fire! Is there a sequence you’re following here?
You see a theme here? I noticed that I could take this further by making it into a sequence with the theme of the four elements, after I made the wakeboarding- and skydive shoot. Water, wind, fire and earth. So that is what I plan to do. I “just” need to do the last shot in the sequence which is earth, now that fire is done too.
What should we expect next from you? There must be a grand finale to this project series... Are you able to reveal some details for us?
I’ve slowly started to work on the next shoot, but it isn't 100% finalised yet. But I think that I might need to travel to another country to get the right location involving earth - outer space could be cool as well.
Is there anyone who could get me to a space station or the moon?
WHAT DO YOU THINK THE NEXT ELEMENT SHOULD BE?
Now you know the elemental sequence of Jesper's projects, where do you think he should shoot the 'earth' element? You have the chance to tell him yourself, as we will be doing a live interview with Jesper soon! Keep your eyes open for this on the f-stop Facebook page, and start thinking what you'd like to ask Jesper about his work and ideas.