Duljak and Bergstrand Speak About Their Proudest Moment
Mateja Duljak and Niklas Bergstrand are a photographer duo currently based in Paris. Mateja and Niklas come from very distinct backgrounds and countries, from Slovenia and Sweden. They both experienced a very different way that led them to study photography. Meeting via the help of a friend Mateja and Niklas become a duo in the profession and in life.
Bold, daring, vibrant, vivid, extravagant, chic, captivating - the works are incredible in any aspect, each campaign recreating the magic, building a new vision. In this interview, we discuss the advantages of working together on set, the challenges in the sphere of commercial projects in Paris, and the proudest moment in the couples’ life.
Duljak x Bergstrand worked with clients like Commercial, Acne Studio, Maison Kitsuné, Ader Error and many other.
Tell about yourselves? You are coming from different backgrounds and cultures, how did it happen that you started to photograph?
N: We both grew up in small towns, close to nature, quite isolated from the rest of the world really. So getting into arts didn't really come naturally to either of us I’m guessing. My mom is a sculpturer, painter and art teacher though, so when I was a kid, I travelled with her to classes around Sweden until I got to my teenage years and naturally revolted against her. So I went on to study plumbing to become a handyman, graduated, worked a year and hated it. Went on to work different jobs after that for the next three years until I realised that I’m maybe meant for arts anyways, haha!
Anyways, to keep a long story short... Studied photography for three years, moved to France, got lucky with assisting top photographers from day one and here I am!
M: We both studied photography, but started off with different paths in life. I was studying interior design before studying photography. I then moved to Milan for modelling, and put photography aside for a while, but I never really stopped shooting and always had a camera with me. After we first met, I naturally transitioned back to photography and we quickly became a duo.
How is living in Paris different from your hometowns from the artistic scene and community perspective in Sweden and Slovenia?
M: Oh very different. I come from a place where the kind of work I do doesn't really exist. I think the same goes for Niklas. Paris was a crucial stop to be able to develop our art. You get everything you need here: amazing exhibitions, great talents to work with, and lots of inspiration.
N: It’s like day and night. When I’m back home in my hometown, I struggle to explain what I do even. But then again, the closest they come to fashion is some department store with brands no one in Paris ever heard of, so I understand why my work seems quite diffuse to them. But that’s also the charm about being home once and a while and reset a bit.
How did you meet and were you already photographing back then?
M: We met in Paris through a common friend at the time, and Niklas was already living there since about a year or so. Niklas was shooting quite a lot already back then and me a little bit less at the time, but we immediately saw that we had a similar vision and we figured very soon how we'd complement each other.
"We both grew up in small towns, close to nature, quite isolated from the rest of the world really. So getting into arts didn't really come naturally to either of us".
— Niklas Bergstrand
Working in the duo is it easier as there are two sets of eyes and hands on the set or is it more difficult as the opinions and the way you view the end product might differ? How do you divide the responsibilities during the photoshoot day?
N: We find it easier in every way, two sets of eyes on everything with the same goal, to create awesome pictures. We always try to plan every shoot meticulously and be clear with goals and final product before the shoot, so we rarely disagree when making final selections of images, and we never talk about who shot each image either, we just choose the best ones.
M: It happens that during a shoot you suddenly lose your creativity or you simply can't imagine how to shoot a certain outfit. Then it's very comforting hearing the other one yelling 'I have it'. That reduces stressful situations to almost zero.
N: On the day of a photo shoot, we both do everything and share responsibilities. Sometimes if one of us was more into the planning phase of the shoot that one is usually more engaged with directing the team, but we always have two cameras. Sometimes shot at the same time to get different angles, sometimes we take turns. It depends a lot on the shoot in the end and what’s suitable.
What type of a photo shoot you would want to be remembered for? What would be unique about this set?
M: The one that will be shot on beautiful secret outdoor locations, in my home country.
N: Honestly don’t know yet, if I would have to guess I would say to create something truly iconic. Maybe shooting a model or actor/actress that’s a once in a lifetime chance and really nail it.
What are the challenges a photographer needs to overcome while shooting commercial projects in Paris?
M & N: It’s a lot about networking and knowing the right people, and with a city that’s five times the size of Mateja’s whole county that’s a lot of people to know and keep in touch with. Honestly, also the production part of shooting in Paris is in general not as well planned and executed as in most other parts of the world we’ve shot in, though you might think otherwise. Shoots in the US, for example, tend to be a lot better organised and have more clear goals.
Does being a parent changes your approach to your work, to the creative ideas or inspiration for the projects?
M: I think it changes the priorities in life in general, but so far I don't think it has changed the creative ideas. It changes the choices you make, which projects to shoot and which not. And maybe you put more importance on personal projects as you want to immortalise certain moments in life that runs even faster now.
N: It changes priorities mainly like Mateja says, as for the creative side I think it’s inspiring you slightly with thinking out of the box and also gives you a good drive to succeed as it’s not only for you anymore. For me, it’s hard now, at the beginning with having to spend quite a lot of time away for shoots, but eventually, as our daughter gets older it will be easier, and we can bring her along on our travels too. So she gets a chance to see what our parents never had a chance to show us when we were small.
"It happens that during a shoot you suddenly lose your creativity or you simply can't imagine how to shoot a certain outfit. Then it's very comforting hearing the other one yelling — I have it".
— Mateja Duljak
"Paris was a crucial stop to be able to develop our art. You get everything you need here: amazing exhibitions, great talents to work with, and lots of inspiration".
— Mateja Duljak
Tell about the editorial for the NR MAGAZINE VOL. 8. What was the idea for this story and where did you shoot it?
N: We loved shooting that story. It was the last shoot we did together before Mateja gave birth. She was SUPER pregnant when we shot it, and it was boiling hot that day, but we had an amazing team that made everything easier. We shot it in Parc de Vincennes on the edge of Paris, and the theme of that issue was freedom.
What was the moment when you felt the proudest of and had a feeling of ‘I/we made it’?
M & N: Work-wise we don't think we made it just yet. There's always so much more to do and always so much space to improve yourself. We kind of hope we never feel like we "made it” honestly, that’s when we think you got too comfortable with what you’re doing.
In personal life, our proudest moment was when our daughter Ronja came to the world. And every mountain you climb.
What is the next campaign you will be working on as a duo?
N: Properly as a duo, we don't know yet. Mateja is currently on maternity leave, and she is helping with planning the projects from our home office.
M: We are currently planning a shoot for January next year for a bag brand called Oberkampf that we’re involved in, that just launched last year and had a great first year. Quite a lot of other commercial shoots in the pipeline too for the beginning of 2019, but they’re just in the pre-production phase yet.