Ulrik Tofte


What is your background?

Studied Photography and film at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden and Aesthetics and Culture at the University of Aarhus, Denmark.

What kind of photography do you most identify with?

Portrait and art photography

Explain your style in 100 words

I think my style is defined by my curiosity in other people. I have always been interested in issues that define us as humans. My middle-class upbringing combined with me marrying my high school girlfriend who came from a very left wing family that was very concerned with social rights forced me into thinking, questioning and reflecting my cultural heritage and the different role we play in society today. That defines my style today.

What photograph left a lasting impression on you and why?

I am especially keen on woman photographers and last year I saw an exhibition in Paris with woman photographers from the 19 century. I was impressed with their thinking and approach.

When did you discover your passion for photography?

From the first moment when I saw my grandfather walk into his darkroom and turned on the red light, I have been intrigued by photography. The fascination of seeing a picture “come to life” can almost be described as a magical moment.

Describe a real-life situation that inspired you?

My wife is a psychologist. She told me about a patient who was told that he was stupid all the time. He came from a very violent and abusive family and he never finished elementary school. The teachers saw him as a troublemaker, and he continued that path because he had been told so many times that he was no good.

During therapy, my wife sensed that there were more to the story and had him examined by a neuropsychologist. He was far from stupid, he was quite the opposite – he had a very high IQ but no one had discovered it. This real-life situation tells me that things other people tell us can be so strong that we tend to believe them even if they are not true.

What’s your most embarrassing moment related to photography?

One of my first paid jobs was really low quality. It was shot on film with my old Hasselblad and was totally overexposed due to my lack of technical understanding of my metz flash… I would probably have been very modern today, but 13 years ago I was not…
What jobs have you done other than being a photographer?

Bartending, working at a warehouse, working at a construction site. At a gas station. Delivering papers!

What is your dream project?

I would like to travel to other parts of the world. As I said my interests have always been revolved around what defines humans. It could be our norms, values, symbols, moral and ideas. These aspects sometimes seem so natural to us that we do not think about them or even consider challenging them. It could be the way we use language, and how we address things or ways of seeing. In other words: what interests me is how the mixture of cultural codes influences and affects us in relation to other people.

Name 5 photographers who have inspired you

August Sander, Katy Grannan, Pieter Hugo, Nan Goldin, Hellen van Meene.

How do you know when a body of work is finished?

Normally I work with deadlines which define when it is finished.

Is there one photograph of yours that you are very proud of? Why?

Images from my series “the key is not to blink” from Ghana of the butcher Alhassan Abdul Latin. He has worked as a butcher for the past 13 years. It is a family business and requires hard work. It is something that you inherited. But even though Alhassan has a dream of leaving the trade and seek a life that he has chosen, he will probably stay because it is his family business.

What is your most important gadget? Is there something you can’t live without in your studio?

Besides my camera? I would say my laptop and the flashes.

How did you start taking pictures? Why do you take pictures?

I started walking around my neighborhood after I set up my darkroom in our basement. Today I do it for a living and my personal work

What was your first camera?

Olympus om10

What camera do you use now and why?

I use a Canon eos 5d mark 3. It is light a makes fairly good pictures.

What role does the photographer have in society?

I see photography as a way of addressing the pressure that society exerts on the individual and how the individual deals with this. It is not for the purpose of truth but as a method that offers a different manner of perception.

You can contact Ulrik and find out more about his work here.