Surreal Photographer Erik Johansson

Erik Johansson Surreal Photography

Surreal Photographer Erik Johansson Makes the Impossible Real

By Kristi Robinson

Floating somewhere between surrealist musings, dreamscapes, and lucid imagination, lies the work of visual artist and photographer Erik Johansson. Completely self-taught, Erik combined his interest in computers with photography to develop his distinctive style of photo manipulation where he creates surreal worlds that are incredibly realistic, yet amusingly mind-bending. Contrary to most photographers who aim to capture moments and finish their work once they snap a shot, for Erik pressing the camera button is when the magic of his work begins.

Full Moon Service

The process that Erik goes throughis what makes his images so unique. While a large part of what he does is creating altered realities through photo manipulation, it is not what you would expect; nothing is computer-generated. Every single detail has been meticulously photographed. Often the details are real life, other times he has to make small-scale models. The photographs are then digitally layered on top of one another as seamlessly as possible, where he fuses unexpected elements into serene landscapes, playing with scale and proportion.

Fishing with Grandpa

Now living in Prague, Erik grew up in the Swedish countryside in the small town of Götene. The experience has a visible impact on his work. He is partial to wide-open spaces and the iconic small red Swedish cottage. The landscapes featured in his photos are often places he knows. He says that inspiration for his photographs can come from anywhere – a morning walk or even browsing the web. As soon as he has a seedling of an idea of two unexpected things, he does a simple sketch right away or jots down a quick note to capture the initial idea or thought. Later he re-sketches with more detail. He explains that most of his time is spent on planning and coming up with ideas. Some can take months or even years to implement depending on the complexity and mood. He finds that it is good to let ideas grow over time, something he can do with his personal projects, but not in his commissioned work. He finds the intense nature of completing a commission in a matter of weeks a fun process because he enjoys the challenge of capturing an idea and figuring out how to convey the message. Erik has done work all over the world with an impressive client list including Volvo, Toyota, Google, Adobe, Microsoft and National Geographic. Adding to his list of achievements, he did a TED talk in London and has published a book titled ‘Imagine’. If you are near the Minneapolis area, Erik’s ‘Imagine – Surreal Photography’ exhibition at the American Swedish Institute from Jan 26 until April 28 is a must-see.

Fishy Island

All photos © Erik Johansson |