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Fofo Altinell: "The more you do soul searching the more you find and have to deal with"

All photos by: Fofo Altinell

We catch up with the Swedish born and Berlin based photographer Fofo Altinell, to talk about what about Berlin inspires his art, as well as how it changed it. But also what he brings with him from Scandinavia.

When did your interest in photography start, and how did it take shape into what it is today?

I was always very visually aware as a kid, with vivid colourful daydreams and fantasies while playing in the Swedish forest. 

Growing up I followed the road of my athlete parents so I kind of stopped drawing and painting and my clothes turned into my creative way of expressing myself. At 13 years old I had blue spikes, big silver raver pants, buffalo shoes and a tight Pokémon t-shirt. A look i still love to be honest.

I wanted to study art in high-school, but my parents said no. I went on the road to be an architect but luckily i needed a break after high-school and went backpacking with a small point and shoot camera and got obsessed. After traveling I decided to apply for art school but needed a portfolio, and as the lil hippie kiddo I was, I didn't know how to get the money for a studio. I talked to a friend and his sister who had recently done a short internship at a creative studio,  and she gave us the security code to the doors. We went there illegally every night for 2 weeks, smoked weed and created my portfolio. We photographed how all the gear was placed out before we touched anything and then put it back before we left early in the morning. Once we filled the room with 100 balloons and got so stoned we had a hard time to pop them and clean up before the workers came in the morning. 

With that portfolio I got into art school at the university and now I lecture at the same school twice a year

Fofo Altinell Berlin Photographer
Fofo Altinell self portrait

You’re from Sweden, how come you moved to Berlin?

At art school I met a friend who was into techno music, he bought me a ticket to Fusion festival and said ‘if you like the festival you don't have to pay me back for the ticket, if you love it you just pay me back’. 

And damn it blew my mind… I could never imagine something like that existed, and I had the time of my life. 

I met some people from Berlin who brought me to Berghain the weekend after. Marcel Dettmann did the closing set and at the dance floor I decided to do my internship in Berlin instead of London. 

What inspires you to shoot today?

Life inspires me. Friends, music, colours in the streets, ayahuasca and vipassana.

Is there anything about Berlin that inspires you, if so, what?

Berlin is very beautiful with all the mess and graffiti, construction sites and trees but mainly all the ravers outfits. Oh and electronic music is a big influence in my life. Anything ambient to techno to dark psytrance really.

In what way has your art changed since you moved here?

I still have pretty much of the Scandinavian romanticism in my light but the subjects are completely Berlin inspired.

In what way would you say the way you perceive yourself has changed here?

The more you do soul searching the more you find and have to deal with. In my 10 years in Berlin I found out I’m bisexual, have adhd, attachment/addiction issues, and other things. At the same time I found my chosen family, created an amazing life full of travel and art. After some very electric years I now feel so calm and happy within myself. It's hard rigorous spiritual work to stay an open and positive soul in this city and I’m happy I’ve done the work, and still do it, all the therapy and spiritual work that is a necessary to grow.

What are things you could discover through the process of photographing someone?

And how does that process look like for you, aesthetically?

It's very intimate to photograph someone. The more I have learned the craft and can relax with the technical part the more intimate it is. Even though I love aesthetics, I want the person's aura to vibrate in the photo. It's a team play to give emotional space and safety for someone to express themselves but also for me to direct what part of them we shall exaggerate.

The artistic decisions are just coming. I never sit down and think about it to be honest, I don't believe art should come from a desk, I prefer to let it flow. My artistic self esteem is very stable and by now i know that if I just relax and let it flow it will work. Tesla said that all energy and thoughts are external and they come to you if you have an open mind. I actually believe in that. It really feels like it streams from my third eye and suddenly I know what to do. So it actually doesn't feels like it's me, it really feels like a collective energy while creating art.


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