Interview in Swedish television Sydnytt about the exhibition Syria The War Within at 48h Lund’s University.
Interview in Swedish television Gomorron Sverige about the book Syria: The War Within
Native Audio Shortcode
Radio interview in Czech national radio- program Casablanca, I will talk about my book The Falling Kingdom.
Syria: The War Within
For full Swedish version Here
Nepal and Mao
For more visit here Here
Nepal and Mao
For full French version Here
Nepal and Mao
French Photo magazine
Nepal and Mao
Nepal and Mao
”In black and white images, he shows Nepalese people and environments in situations that are often characterized by dramatic social dynamics. It is an insider perspective, based on the presence and knowledge. ” Sören Sommelius
The mountain country Nepal has in recent decades undergone a dramatic development. After a ten-year civil war, which claimed more than 13 000 people dead, ousted the Maoist rebels, the country’s monarchy and proclaimed the People’s Republic of Nepal 2006. King Gyanendra stepped down after elections in 2008 when a coalition led by the Maoists took power. New governments have taken on, a new constitution to be adopted. The country, one of the world’s poorest, is in a dramatic transition.
Helsingborg -born photographer Olof Jarlbro visited the country for the first time in 1998 and has since repeated traveled and lived in Nepal. This year released “Nepal & Mao” (Rough dog Press), his third Nepalese photo book for “The Falling Kingdom” and “Stone Factory”.
Olof Jarlbro do not analyze Nepal’s political situation. Short texts provides essential background, otherwise the photographs speak mostly for themselves. In black and white images, he shows Nepalese people and environments in situations that are often characterized by dramatic social dynamics.
It is an insider perspective, based on the presence and knowledge. Olof Jarlbros lens captures the drama of the confrontations between protesters and police, there are pictures taken during trips in the mountain villages and visit in the workshops where they teach Maoism, pictures where you glimpse the police escorted the king’s Jaguar.
For full Swedish version Here
Photo eye magazine
“Jarlbro photographed these workers off and on over a six year period. He does turn these workers into heros. The photographic power of description tells a direct story in a way that is both contemporary and timeless. It is a story told out of respect. —TOM LEININGER”
To read the full review please visit photo eye magazine Here
The Falling Kingdom and Stonefactory
Syria: The Falling Kingdom
For full Swedish version Here
The Falling Kingdom
For full Czech version Here
In Black & White Magazine issue no.99
From the decade-long Nepali civil war between Maoist insurgents and government forces, to the the more recent armed conflict in the streets of Syria, Swedish photographer Olof Jarlbro has been on the front lines of the world’s most contentious hotspots, documenting those issues that speak to the universal and essential aspirations for political and social justice.
Born in 1978 in the town of Helsinborg, and raised by a mother who was a professor of media and communication and a father who was an artist, Jarlbro at an early age was influenced and inspired by the impactfulness and value of the visual arts.
After completion of his compulsory military service as a Lapland Ranger in the northern part of Sweden, Jarlbro made his first trip to Nepal marking both the start of his lifelong fascination with the country as well as his decision to become a professional photographer. After a year of basic photographic study back in Sweden, he enrolled in the International Center of Photography’s Documentary and Photojournalism program.
After his studies in New York, Jarlbro began his first extended photo project in Nepal documenting the country’s religious ceremonies. In 2005, he enrolled in the BA program at FAMU, the art, film and photography school based in Prague, Czech Republic.
During his time in Prague, Jarlbro participated in frequent exhibitions, drawing praise for his work and the attention of a Czech book publisher who offered Jarlbro his first book contract which resulted in “The Falling Kingdom” (2008), the artists extensive examination of the political, social and religious transformation of Nepalese society.
Based on the positive responses to the book, Jarlbro landed numerous international magazine assignments to cover stories on social and political conflicts around the world. Two additional books published by Roughdog Press, Stonefactory (2010), a look at the lives of workers and families at two stonemills on the outskirts of Kathmandu, and Nepal and Mao (2011) a study of the aftermath of the Maoist insurgency in Nepal, cemented Jarlbro’s reputation as a leading documentary photographer.
Jarlbro currently lives in Sofia, Bulgaria working as a freelancer on longer reportage assignments and photographic projects. He is currently completing work on a new book project on remote areas of Nepal and also is planning a book on the ongoing conflict in Syria.
In an email interview with B&W, Jarlbro discussed the challenges, opportunities and satisfactions that come from being both a news photographer on the front lines of world conflicts as well as a documentarian digging deeper in the struggle for social justice and well being.B&W: What inspired to get into documentary photography and photojournalism? Jarlbro:“When I first picked up photography the images of other photographers that stuck in my mind were either old war photographs or documentary photographs, and of course they were all black and white. To this day I still see myself primarily as a documentary photographer even though I do cover some news events.” B&W: “What are the primary factors that motivate you both in terms of the types of stories you choose to cover and how you approach your coverage of a particular story? Jarlbro: “Curiosity itself is definitely one factor, but I also think about a potential story whether it’s interesting enough in visual terms and of course whether it’s possible to sell, although I have to say most stories are possible to sell if they’re done the right way.” B&W: What is the primary psychological/emotional insight you try to convey in your work? Jarlbro: “I think many of my stories are mostly about a quest for understanding, although I do always try to bring a level of grace to my subjects.” B&W: Are most of your assignments self-generated or are you working primarily on contract for magazines, news organizations or stock agencies? Jarlbro: “Most of my project are self-produced and I have been doing it that way for more then ten years. I have never understood photographers who wait around to get an assignment, or complain they did not get sent to do a story they really wanted to do. You have to just do it, even if there’s a risk that you might not sell the story or lose some money. In the end if you come back with good work you should be able to sell it, or at least those images can generate other work. Fortunately in the last few years I have received several grants which have made things easier for me.” B&W: How do the logistics work in terms of gaining entry to a country where a major conflict is occurring, and gaining access to the side of the conflict you want to document? Jarlbro: “When entering a country for the first time, that’s the hard part. I try to use what contacts I have to get in touch with those people with the best connections and that are trustworthy. I often get help from local journalists who know what’s going on although in many places they are limited to the degree they can help or even cover stories themselves because of the fear they have that their families could be harmed. Generally the longer you stay in a country the better and easier the logistics get.” B&W: How does the image selection/editing process work on your stories, and how much control do you have when shooting on assignment? Jarlbro:“Since I mostly sell a complete story, I have pretty much control over the image selection, although of course the editor and the magazines often have their own vision for a story, but most times it turns out well. The only really bad experience I had was with one of the biggest Swedish dailies, which totally shredded and cropped every single image I gave them until their was nothing left of my photography. If a magazine decides to crop an image they should do it in collaboration with the photographer, especially like in my case when I shoot and print full frame.” B&W: Elaborate on why you prefer working in black and white as opposed to color. Jarlbro: “ For me, black and white photography has always been more revealing then color, which adds one more element to the image that can at times be a bit distracting. With black and white you are narrowing down the picture to the core of photography and the two most important basics of context and content. Still there is a lot of good color photography out there and I wouldn’t exclude making any project in color. I just tend to be drawn to the black and white.” B&W: How has the transition from film to digital changed the nature of news coverage and how has it impacted how you work and photograph? Jarlbro: “It hasn’t changed me as a photographer so much, but it has definitely changed the market. Everything has to be so damn fast. Images have to be sent the same day or even on the hour, when good stories take time; weeks, months or even years.” B&W: What has been the single most important story or news event you have covered in your career? Jarlbro: “I went pretty deep into what was happening during the civil in Nepal (1996-2006). I stayed in Nepal over a very long period of time and have visited the country a couple of times every year. I believe Nepal is such an old and complex country that to really understand it one has to give it time.” B&W: What is your most recently completed story and what is your next big story? Jarlbro: “I was in Syria a few months back, which was very intense. There were a couple of close calls dealing with heavy mortar fire. Coming up it looks like I will cover the Bulgarian election. There have already been some major protests over the upcoming election and it looks like it could be interesting.” B&W: Elaborate on the importance of books to your art and how they better communicate what you are trying to say versus individual images or published photoessays. Jarlbro:“The photo books have a broader reach and seem to have a life on their own, slowly turning up little by little all over the globe. Newspapers and magazines in most cases are more nationally based so their reach is more limited. Books have a longer life, and that I like.” B&W: What are the kinds of calculations you make in terms of deciding on an acceptable level of physical risk when photographing a violent or armed conflict? Jarlbro: “It’s hard or even impossible to calculate the risk. Before any trip I try to make the best preparations I can to minimize risk. But when you are in a place like Syria, sleeping five minutes from the frontline and spending all day in the front, dodging sniper bullets that are hitting the ground next to you, or throwing yourself for cover as a rain of mortars is hitting the building next to you, it’s very hard knowing that if you make one wrong step your life will be over in a second. Journalists today are dying like flies in different conflicts, and it’s very sad for journalism in general.” B&W: How would you characterize the response or reaction of your subjects to your covering their conflicts? Jarlbro:“I would say most are happy that I am there, to tell their story. Of course there is always someone that is suspicious and I have to do my part to explain who I am, and what I do. I have somewhat of a direct kind of personality and most people can see that I am frank in what I do.” B&W: Do you have a particular political or social point of view that determines the stories you cover or how you document a story? Jarlbro: “I do believe that every story deserves be told, but mostly I am a curious person and just I like to find out and understand for myself the truth behind a story.” B&W: To what degree can photography bring meaningful truth to bear on all these disparate world conflict? Can photography help resolve complex social issues, or does it ultimately become little more than just another statistical iteration of human cruelty and social injustice? Jarlbro: That’s a good question. I do believe in the necessity and importance of documenting conflicts as historical documents. But if my photography could change the outcome of a conflict and bring peace, well as a photographer I would sure hope so. But even if photography is just a small puzzle piece towards peace I think it is worth it.”
Black & White Magazine- Richard Pitnick In FK Magazine
Swedish photographer Olof Jarlbro (1978) visited Nepal, when he was 20 years old and since then this country has become the primary subject in his photography projects. Several books have been published on Nepal; the latest titled Nepal & Mao shows people on the streets, riots and strikes in the politically precarious state. Since the end of the Civil war, tensions between the conflicting sides – communist Maoists, on one hand, and royalists, on the other, still prevail in Nepal. Jarlbro works with an analog 35mm camera, the filmic grain and stylistics make the photographs timeless. The photographer has studied at FAMU in Prague and ICP in New York. Currently he resides in Sofia.FK: Most of your projects have been related to Nepal. What is so special about this country that makes you go back over and over again?
Jarlbro:I guess, it’s a variety of factors that makes me go back over and over again. Nepal as a country is very complex, there are over 30 different ethnic groups with their own language and dialect. So often, when I have been working on a specific story, I discover something totally new, which sparks the idea for a new project, and so it’s been going on for a while. Then, of course, since my long stay there, I speak little Nepali, enough to make things easier in the remoter areas. Also, over the years I have made quite a big network of local friends and colleagues, which makes the logistics of the projects easier.
FK: Looking at your book Nepal & Mao, it seems that the country is still at war even though the Civil war ended in 2006. How would you describe your attitude towards the events there and the photographic style you have used to deal with the subject?
Jarlbro:I would say, very little things that happen in Nepal get reported in global media. Thanks to the world’s highest mountain, Nepal is not totally in the dark. When I started working on Nepal & Mao, I was also surprised about the still on-going tension in the country. This made me curious and led me on a journey around the country. I wanted to provide an in-depth description of Nepal and Maoists. I like getting close to my subjects. I am not very much a telly guy.
FK: Currently you live in Bulgaria. What’s a typical day for a photographer in Sofia?
Jarlbro:I live both in Sweden and Bulgaria trying to divide my time between the two countries. Surviving only on the local market is almost impossible in Bulgaria. If you want to do something else than photographing what’s going on within the limits of the capital city, you need to have global clients. I was very fortunate last year to get a couple of generous grants for various book projects.
FK: Can you briefly describe the photojournalism scene in Bulgaria?
Jarlbro:There is definitely an interest in photojournalism in Bulgaria both for print and in terms of exhibitions. There are also a lot of good young photojournalists and editors in Sofia. The biggest problem is that the magazines can’t pay enough for an in-depth reportage. Not even a fraction of the cost! This situation makes a lot of good photographers look across the borders for job.
FK: What is your current project?
Jarlbro:I got a few projects on the table. At the moment I’m editing photos from Kathmandu, so hopefully it will turn into a book in 2012. In a few months I will fly to Nepal for completing a project in the jungle district. Since I have recently become a father to a beautiful baby girl and I don’t want to spend too long time away, I am trying not to stay away for more than 5-6 weeks in a row. I also started a project in Southern Bulgaria. In Helsingborgs Dagblad
He lives in the middle of Helsingborg and on the hillside outside Sofia. But it is the good stories, tension and conflicts, he is drawn to. The photographer Olof Jarlbro passion to report – on war and violent death.
There came an e-mail to the newspaper. From a front-line soldier with a camera as a weapon. Olof Jarlbro from Helsingborg had just returned from the hell on earth and wanted to show and tell.
From Syria’s largest city, Aleppo, where snipers lurked in the alleys, and home to the family and Christmas preparations. The contrast could hardly be greater.HD: You have a little daughter and will soon become a father for the second time. What were you thinking? Jarlbro:– Entire families were wiped out and as newly dad, I was of course very moved about the suffering. But it’s important to document. The information was inadequate and I felt a need to describe reality from within, as very few journalists managed to enter the war zone. I do not do anything half way, but you have to keep your cool. HD: Honestly, how scared were you? Jarlbro:– Maybe not for death, but never to meet those I love. It’s not like in Iraq where embedded journalists was piloted around. Here, the major news agencies do not have their own people on the spot. It’s just too risky so they buy pictures from within. One day we lay on the floor for several hours while the bombs exploded. Then it took a weird, surreal silence and no one knew if the rebels won or lost street battle. Assad Regime bombing hospitals, bakeries and everything. The few foreign photographers I encountered in Aleppo, I think there were four, were all singles. HD: How did you get in? Jarlbro:– My Bulgarian colleague, and I was escorted by FSA rebels and lived with them. It was the only way for us and it is impossible to go from side to side. If government soldiers got hold of us anything could of happen. There are journalists who were kidnapped, tortured and disappeared. We soon realized that there is already a huge media saturation surrounding reporting, and focus shifted quickly to Gaza when it started heating up there. Despite the chaos and the losses are so much greater in Syria. HD: This was the way you had in mind life as a photographer? Jarlbro:– I have educated me in New York and Prague, but somehow always been attracted by adventure. For a few years, I traveled a lot to Nepal. It was just when the civil war had started. It so visually and beautiful, much like in the “the Arabian nights”, with 32 different ethnic groups and dozens of languages. I started an export business also and made some photo books, among other things, about life in a stone factory. One person can make a difference. It does not cost more than SEK 50 000 to build a school and almost nothing to buy some rice to workers in two factories. HD: What can the rest of us mere mortals contribute? Jarlbro:– There are always choices to make … when buying clothes or refueling. Personally I use the camera to disseminate knowledge and to maybe make the world a little better. HD: Tell us a bit about your background. Jarlbro:– I have lived in central Helsingborg and grew up in Råå. My wife, I met when I lived in Prague and we both studied photography. She is Bulgarian and now we’re up in the Vitosha Mountain outside of Sofia and sometimes in our apartment in Helsingborg. Because she belongs to the Orthodox Church, I got baptized before our wedding down in Bulgaria. It was special and I ‘m glad my father, Bertil Jarlbro, got to experience it. He became a grandfather, too – a month before he passed away from cancer. I lost an important mentor and took his death hard. HD: What new goals do you have? Jarlbro:-There are stories to tell everywhere. Sure, I am interested in war zones, but you find yourself in the middle of them so it ends with certain death. There is a curiosity, not least in how I react in tough situations. I would actually consider myself to visit Syria again and I feel for returning to Nepal. Burma is a country that attracts.
Per Ohlsson Helsingborgs Dagblad
For Swedish version Here In Adore Noir Adore Noir :Please introduce yourself. Where do you live?
Jarlbro:My name is Olof Jarlbro I am documentary photographer. I am based between Helsingborg, Sweden and Sofia, Bulgaria. About 1-3 month a year I spend in Nepal.
Adore Noir :: When and how did you get into photography?
Jarlbro:After I finish my army in Sweden as a Lapland ranger in 1998, I went to Nepal for climbing and trekking in the Himalayas. I had bought my first camera before that, and during the trip I guess I got hooked on taking photos. The next year applied for some basic courses in Photography. Adore Noir : Did you have any formal training in photography?
Jarlbro:I have one-year basic introduction in photography in Sweden. Then after that I went one year at ICP-New York photojournalism program and a couple of years later I went the 3 years BA-program at Famu- TV, Film and photography department. I always worked during my studies, which I think can be good. Schools can be great but also disasters if you let the teachers poking in your work too much. But if you can get away with just doing your thing and get great deal of technical support and knowledge I think its fine. I think they way ICP conduct the education is very inspiring for a young photographer. Adore Noir : Why did you choose to pursue documentary photography?
Jarlbro:I think the main reason I got in to documentary was that the only image that had some impact on me was either documentary or journalistic photographs and this led me to pursue that field of photography, but time to time I had some more commercial job to finance my projects.
Adore Noir : Tell us about your relationship with Nepal?
Jarlbro:Since I stayed there so long and most of my work is from there, I am strongly attached to the country. So much has changed the last years, special the end of the Shah dynasty. But still it’s such old complex culture, which is extremely fascinating.
Adore Noir : You have produced three books: The falling kingdom (2008), Stonefactory (2009) and Nepal and Mao (2011). Do you have any projects currently in the works?
Jarlbro:I been working on a forth book on the remote areas of Nepal which is planned to be finish sometimes in the end 2013 but the work just got bigger and the story got more complex so maybe I am looking at two books. Also I am part of large project about Bulgaria as former Soviet Union and what the EU membership did for the people of Bulgaria. It’s an interesting project and I hope we get enough funding for finishing it as book and traveling exhibition. Adore Noir : I have your book Nepal and Mao and must say that the images are truly breathtaking. Tell us about a memorable experience that really stood out while shooting this book.
Jarlbro:It was some time hard to get access, which led to a lot of arguments. I don’t normally take a no for an answer and that’s some times pushing your luck. I almost lost my friends 4×4 vehicle to an angry mob of Maoist when driving on supposed car ban day. They were really upset, beating the jeep with baths, rocks you name it. But some how I managed to talk my way out of it after showing some magazines stories that I made In Nepal, which luckily I had in the back of the trunk. The vehicle was ok, except some broken lights and scratches. The same day a couple of people lost their life and one ambulance and school bus got totally wrecked. So I Guess I was a lucky.
Adore Noir : What is your final say? (We like to end the interview with this question; it could be anything from advice to a young photographer or anything else you might want to mention)
Jarlbro:For me being a documentary photographer is about telling the small stories that normally are in the media shadow. I strongly believe that all stories should be told and using camera is an excellent way to do it. In BG Press Photo BG Press Photo How do you become so interested in the situation in Nepal?
Jarlbro:I came there first 98th I had just finished my compulsory army as Lapland Ranger and I was into mountain climbing and trekking. I never been to Asia before and Nepal was such a vibrant country which I never experience before. It was on this journey I started to photograph and made up my mind to become a photographer. Already in 98th some trouble had started to emerge which escalated on every journey. It was not possible to not photograph what was going on..
BG Press Photo How did you gain access to the soldiers’ camps?
Jarlbro:I talked my way trough the barbwire and armed guards. Of course it did not work every time, which lead to many stupid argument. But when I was in the camp at that moment there was no journalist or photographer at any camp around the whole Nepal. I always prefer to be the only photographer on the story or in the area. Of course that is not always possible, I traveled with friend that are photographers many times. But we try not shooting the same subjects.
BG Press Photo The soldiers seem mostly young people in your photos. Were they straight in their positions or they train and fight just for the excitement?
Jarlbro:The PLA Peoples liberation army starting to be like a more established army. With guard shift, morning exercise patrols etc. In the beginning it was more farmers picking up old rifles from the Second World War. BG Press Photo From your photos it seems that you have traveled a lot around Nepal. Is that better than being at few places and documenting them for longer time?
Jarlbro:I do both; I stay long time on some places and shorter on another. Some times you only gets access for a short period of time, and then of course you need to be ready. In most time I would say longer time on a place is optimal. But some times a short time on a place can really push you for taking that extra step for the good photograph. BG Press Photo Why black and white? By technical, aesthetic or conceptual reasons?
Jarlbro:There is a couple of reason I shoot black and white. One strong reason I would say, is that all inspiring photographs I liked when starting out was black and white photography. I do think when doing a documentary story some time the color can distract from story, subject etc. If I narrow a photograph down it’s all about context and content. So it’s about the aesthetic but also about the subject, if you put color there you have another aspect, which should be balance with the other two. Of course this doesn’t exclude that I do not care for color photography the contrary I have been shooting color and there is some good color work out there. But so far my longer project has been in B/W but who knows maybe I do a longer project in color someday. BG Press Photo Do you have personal principles in photography, something like shooting only b/w or only wide angle or never use flash or always being anonimous, etc.?
Jarlbro:Lol, yea I guess you set up some kind of rules for your self. I don’t crop. All my images are full frame. I have not used any tele-lensen on any photographs in my books. Same goes for flash. But both with flash and tele I would not exclude that in the future. I think a small tele like a 85mm is really nice on portraits. It’s just the action scenes I don’t like to be far way. A wide angel 28mm really forces your self to be close. But if you are on some big event/protest and 50 other photographer gets your back on every image their going to be some upset colleagues. BG Press Photo Have you worked for newspapers, agencies?
Jarlbro:I sold stories to dailies but never worked for any. The stories I do take weeks, month’s maybe years. There is no newspaper on this planet that would hire me for that kind of story. When it comes to agency I got some offers but I did not care much for those agencies in particular. I had some cooperation with Italian Grazi Neri but it went bankrupt otherwise it was good agency.
BG Press Photo If you have the chance, would you?
Jarlbro:Defiantly with the agencies, if it’s a good one. Other wise I would not bother. I can’t see my self-working any longer time in a newspaper. Cause I value some of the freedom I have as freelancer. But for a short period of time or for special events I cant see why not. BG Press Photo What aspects of life in Bulgaria are interesting to you in terms of documenting them?
Jarlbro: Every day life, people struggle to get by. BG Press Photo How long are you preparing for starting working for a project or story?
Jarlbro: I have little notebook, which a write down ideas for stories, projects ECT. Then of course it’s the finance plan for the projects. If its big project I try to get some funds to cover it. Then when the budget for the project is ok start the practical planning. With Nepal and Mao. I had done most preparation in Katmandu; cause In Nepal most things are solved with tea-meetings. It was everything from getting 4×4 vehicle and good driver to getting permits, letters of recommendation and of course the most important getting the right contacts. I would say a couple weeks. BG Press Photo In your website you have stories from Nepal, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Cuba and no from Sweden. Isn’t your native country interesting for photographing?
Jarlbro:Defiantly, there is a lot stories in Sweden. Sometimes when a story is to close it’s hard to distance your self to see it clearly or even see it. But all my years abroad, had made me see Sweden with a different eyes and their will defiantly be some stories from Sweden near future. BG Press Photo What are you currently working on?
Jarlbro: NEPAL, NEPAL, NEPAL… BG Press Photo Do you think here (in Bulgaria) there are good conditions for a documentary photographer?
Jarlbro:I think that there is an interest for Documentary photography in Bulgaria, which is great. But there is not very much money to be made. And photographers are like every other people we also need to eat and pay bills. So for any one starting out, I would recommend to think global.