Jonte Wentzel – A True Capture
BY STEPHANIE CAJUCOM
Swedish wunderkind, Jonte Wentzel, began his illustrious career in 1996 at the mere age of nineteen when he began working with Sweden’s prime newspaper, Expressen. The 19 year old’s raw and unbridled talent didn’t go unnoticed as he flourished into an award-winning mastermind. He went on to win first place in Sweden's most prestigious photography contest (Årets Bild) in 1997 and continued his success with the second place prize in 2006 and the third place prize in 2011. His photos, writhe in reality, have made their way into world renowned publications including, most recently, The Sunday Times.
Wentzel has his eyes all over the world. Breaking beyond the borders of comfort, he brings to light the vast and various epidemics that surround and abound. With a fear of nothing, he tells the in-depth stories of CNN and the ones they’ve left behind with only haunting images of revelation.
His photographs are alive with humanity, breathing and living testaments of the truths that lie beyond the world we know. With documentary stories in dangerous areas like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Haiti, and a tour of Africa, he’s bringing people to the realizations of the true condition of the world, at any cost.
You have been working as a photographer since you where 19 years old. What made you start photography so young?
I got my first analog camera when I was 14 or 15. Then, I studied photography during High School and did an internship at a local newspaper. Once I finished school I was already working extra as a photographer and decided to apply for a job at Expressen, which by then was Sweden’s leading newspaper. After 10 months of mandatory military service, where I served as photographer, I applied for a summer job at Expressen and remained there until 2002, when I started to freelance.
In your earlier years you did do some fashion photography, right?
Yes, I have done some but it was a long time ago now. I think the last job was in 2006.
You enjoy watching and interpreting the world around you? How is this different then capturing the latest trend?
Although the work environment differs slightly between fashion photography and reportage photography, the art of photography doesn’t have to change that much. A good fashion image is basically a good portrait and the same rule applies to reportage imagery.
When did you switch gear to doing only reportage photography?
I have always looked at myself as just a portrait photographer. The environment and circumstances changed and right now I tend to find myself in a high-risk areas and in the midst of a war, rather than in a photo studio.
As a reportage photographer, is there a creative process before a story? And if so, describe it to us.
No, there is not one singular process. The work prior to a trip is mostly research and all the practical things that you have to settle before you do a reportage journey to a high-risk area or a conflict area.
You see so much tragedy and sorrow, how do you deal with that?
I do see a lot tragedy and horror in my line of work but it’s seldom I see something I didn’t already know existed. It’s almost harder not going to document than going. It doesn’t become worse seeing the shit I already knew existed. It almost feels easier when I get a chance to document an important and urgent subject.
Do you consider yourself an artist, a story-teller of history, or a medium of communication?
I see myself as a photographer and that comprises all of the above.
What’s the next journey for you? Will you stay home for a while?
I recently came back form Nigeria and although nothing is settled I am planning to stay home for a while. Right now I am working in Stockholm doing some portraits, filming music videos, and doing a few reportage jobs for various magazines and newspapers. In spring 2014 I am planning a trip to Afghanistan.
-- Interview by Anna Maria Sandegren