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Carl Kleiner: Ethiopia

Posted by Will Hudson,

Swedish photographer Carl Kleiner got everyones attention last month when his work on Ikea’s baking book, “Hembakat är Bäst” (Homemade is Best) was on just about every blog. Having had to postpone a holiday as a result of the job he was keen to get away, Ethiopia being the destination of choice. On his return we caught up with him to find out more…

Hi Carl, last time we saw you it was the Ikea job that was cropping up all over the internet, you’ve just come back from 2 weeks in Ethiopia, tell us more?

My vacation this summer was cut short due to the Ikea project so my girlfriend and I had decided to go somewhere this fall. We were actually looking for a weeend in Amsterdam but as we typed the letter “A” when booking tickets the destination Addis Abeba popped up… Our good friend from NYC is born in Addis and was there visiting his family so we thought Etiopia sounded much more exciting. We did an amazing journey west and one north. The car-ride was actually one of the best parts of the trip. I really fell for this tragically beautiful country: it’s mountains, the wildlife-including its great species of colorful birds, it’s diversity-both in landscape, (from the semi-arid Rift Valley to its cool high plateus of 2,000 to 3,000 meters) to its incredibly diverse cultures, (83 ethnic groups and languages). But what made this journey so much more memorable for me was its people. Hospitable, curious, kind and just beautiful.

Ethiopia was historically isolated because of its crazy mountain ranges, and the country is the only one in Africa to have never expierienced colonization. Because of these facts, the country’s nearly untouched. Furthermore, due to its low-level infrastructure and bad reputation, there isn’t that much tourism. So it’s a nearly forgotten part of the world. Its beauty awaits any outsider’s discovery.

Was there a plan before you headed out there as to what you wanted to shoot?

Yes there was some kind of plan but that didn’t happen, we didn’t have time for the south. Next time. I knew I wanted portraits but not really how. I am actually happy I didn’t plan anything in particular. Our friend Yared says all reason and logic you bring from home has to all be thrown out the window. Just out the window!

The majority of your commercial work is still life where you have total control of the situation, these shots are very different, do you find it easy to shoot in this way or does it take a few days to adapt?

I take shots like these on an daily basic, so the the camera I’m using is an old friend that I know very well. But it took some time to get over being a shy Swede in a foreing country in a culture I never met before.

What’s the plan with the collection of images?

When I shot the material there was no big plan, only fascination and curiosity. I wanted to capture this great experience.

Is this something you want to do on a regular basis? Where’s next?

I love to experience new places and people, and I try to travel as much as I can. My girlfriend Evelina Bratell, (who also happen to be the mastermind-stylist behind the Ikea images, among other) got a scholarship to go to Japan and do research about indigo. After Japan we’re going to the mountains in northern Vietnam.

You shot 33 rolls of film, do you have a favourite image?

That’s a tricky question. I’m really into trees…

Wh-300

Posted by Will Hudson

Will founded It’s Nice That in 2007 and is now director of the company. Once one of the main contributors to the site he has stepped back from writing as the business has expanded. He is a regular guest on the Studio Audience podcast.