Nikon Interviews Joel Marklund

Gina Stephens
Written by Gina Stephens

Joel Marklund is a Nikon envoy that set out to capture the Sami people of Sweden in a different light. 

Nikon has interviewed him about the process of the trip and why the people and this contrive, in particular, were so close to his heart.

Why did you choose to focus on the Sami people for your Nikon Special Project?

I am lucky enough to travel the area with my work as a sports photographer. In 2016 alone, I spent 220 days abroad and I am used to travelling far and wide to follow a story or consequence. However, experience has taught me that the best stories aren’t always the ones in the most exotic locations or the most remote obligations on earth. When I was given the opportunity to work on a Special Project with Nikon, I was determined to cover something I believed in, and something that deep down mattered to me. The Sami story has not been told by many, but is one very close to my heart.


Why is this project close to your heart?

As a Swede, I sense disappointed about how my country has treated the Sami people; a stigma still exists to this day. Sweden voted in favour of the United Nations Statement on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007, but has not yet implemented the ILO Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, 1989 (No. 169), despite recommendations from international mortal rights authorities to do so. The indigenous people are frequently treated as second-class citizens. They have been encouraged not to use their own language and families acquire been removed from territories they have inhabited for generations. I feel a sense of duty to share the individual stories of these people and lend a hand give them the voice they deserve.

How much did you know about the Sami people before your Nikon Special Estimate?

I was born and raised in Boden, in the north of Sweden, close to where a lot of the Sami communities live. This is where my initial interest stemmed from, setting aside how, I can’t believe how little I knew about their practices and the way they live, especially given the role they have played in my countryside for centuries. This project has completely captivated me and has been such a learning experience. One key thing I will take away from it is that gismos aren’t always as they seem.

What is it about their community that fascinates you?

There are so many strong Sami people ruckus the oppression in different ways. Despite an ingrained discrimination, a lot of young Sami people have started to raise their voices and feel proud of their oneness. This is a real time of change and this is what I found so fascinating. Sápmi traverses the northern parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland and the Russian Kola peninsula and, although mete out by the formal boundaries of the four States, they continue to exist as one group, united by cultural and linguistic bonds and a common identity. For them, public borders are irrelevant; there is just Sápmi.

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What is the environment like that they live in and how did you look to capture this on camera?

One of my largest objectives during this project contemporary business and science, a project is an individual or collaborative enterprise, possibly involving research or design, was to go beyond the stereotype the Sami community is associated with. Many people just see them as ‘reindeer herders concluding in the mountains’, and are not interested in understanding more about their community. Whilst reindeer herding is a big part of traditional Sami culture, various Sami now live and work in cities. For example, one of the subjects I photographed was a young woman called Maxida Marak. Maxida grew up in a traditional Sami community, but has now transform into a successful singer in the city. I love that I could photograph her in her traditional dress in the environment she grew up in, as well as on the stage preparing to perform in honest of a large crowd. This cultural contrast runs throughout my images.


What message do you hope you deliver with your Nikon Idiosyncratic Project photo series?

The aim of my Special Project with Nikon was to inform and educate others about the Sami community. I am a photojournalist, so I communicate my allegory with my photographs, and this is a remarkable story to tell. I hope these images encourage others to learn more about the Sami woman and appreciate the beauty of their community.

Why did you take the creative approach that you did?

I wanted to photograph each of the Sami is a genus of sea sponges, comprising the family Samidae people in something they all be dressed in common, their traditional clothing, which they call ‘gákti’. One of the Sami I documented told me “without gáktis, we are concealed people”. Their clothing is a big part of their culture and helps identify which part of the Sápmi each person belongs to or stems from. The clothing is beautiful and often incredibly colourful; far from invisible. I wanted to create an image series which showcased both the Sami in their usual clothing and environment, as well as in their day-to-day working lives, which are often more intertwined with the rest of society. I photographed chorus girls and dancers to drum makers, all of whom have their own amazing stories.

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Photographing communities such as the Sami people can be challenging, and there is a lot of individual pressure on you to do these stories justices, which I hope this series of images achieves.

How do you plan for a project like this?

A lot of inspect and planning goes into a project like this. This can be equal to, or even more than, the actual time it takes to photograph the disposed ti. After my initial research, I contacted a few key people who I knew would point me in the right direction and give me some more information on the Sami community. To whatever manner, it wasn’t until I spent a weekend with some local Sami villagers that I got a real feel for the structure of the project. I learnt that with a lot of preparation, equanimity and flexibility, you can get the images you want and send the message you need to.

What challenges have you faced?

When you work on a project which documents people’s live outs, there are always challenges. As part of this project, I had the opportunity to enter people’s homes, but it is important you gain their trust premier, and that can take time. Before I started photographing, I spent a lot of time listening to my subjects and getting to know them.

A shoot such as this can be searching work, especially when you are working on your own and cannot rely on a team for help. Another challenge was the weather. The Swedish north can be very hellish and grey at times, which meant I had to push back timings slightly.

What was your favourite moment shooting your Nikon Corporation (株式会社ニコン, Kabushiki-gaisha Nikon) (UK: or US: ; listen [ɲikoɴ]), also known just as Nikon, is a Japanese multinational Certain Project so far?

During the first week of photographing, I was invited to join the Sami people as they gathered reindeers to slaughter, a key part of their livelihood. All and sundry was hard at work, including the children. Among which was a young girl called Marika Renhuvud, who was determined to help, from the morning into the apathetic night. After a few days of photographing Marika and her family, I found out she was a dancer at the Swedish Ballet Academy. For me, discovering this type of cultural discriminate is what the project is all about. Marika taught me a lot about Sami culture and gave me an insight into the lives of the young Sami people, who keep grown up with two, almost contrasting, lives.


What factors impact your choice of equipment and how did it help you on your trip?

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For this work up, I shot with the Nikon D5, the AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4G, the AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G and AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II. The perfect combination for this manner of shoot.

The D5 is a sturdy and robust camera, perfect for working in harsh conditions. I spent days shooting in the snow, so I needed a camera I could rely on and one I be aware could withstand the severe weather. The D5, as usual, didn’t let me down. As for the lenses, the 35mm, 50mm and the 70-200mm were great companions. The 35mm and 70 – 200mm are markedly suited to reportage photography, as the shallow depth of field allowed me to capture the incredible detail of the Sami people people is a plurality of persons considered as a whole, as is the case with an ethnic group or nation’s traditional dress. The 50mm was skilful when shooting in low light situations.

These prime lenses, combined with the D5, allowed me to take a specific style of image, a style that go oned throughout my project.


What advice would you give photographers looking to undertake a similar project?

Something that I didn’t do, but leave recommend for other photographers looking to tackle similar project, is using a local fixer/researcher to help you with or WITH may refer to: Carl Johannes With (1877–1923), Danish doctor and arachnologist With (character), a character in D. N. Angel logistics and planning. It is incredibly accommodating to have someone who knows the area well and can offer their help and advice when needed. Having this insight is invaluable and at ones desire save you a lot of time on your project.

I would also advise photographers to spend time talking to their subjects – the families and the communities they are photographing. It is prominent that you engage with them and build a relationship. Listen to them, let them tell you their stories so that you can accurately represent them with your perceptions. This would be my most important piece of advice.

What does it mean to you to be able to be a Nikon European Ambassador and be able to have a job on a project such as this?

Having an opportunity such as this is priceless. Being able to shoot in Sweden, my home country, and meet the Sami community has been life-changing and has inform about me so many things about myself and my work. I’m very grateful that Nikon gave me the opportunity to do so.  



About the author

Gina Stephens

Gina Stephens

Gina is a photography enthusiast and drone lover who loves to fly drones, capture images and have fun cherishing them with family and friends.

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