Interview with Florian Trykowski

If you haven’t been to Iceland Airwaves or if you just miss the atmoshpere of this icelandic music madness there is a way to feel like you’re in the middle of action. Just take a look at some of his pictures and you will know what I mean. Florian Trykowski has the best job you could imagine. He’s a music photographer, concentrated on Icelandic bands. Open-minded and incredibly talented guy with a great passion and personality. Here’s the interview you just can’t miss!

Bartek: Hi Florian. How are you doing?

Florian: Great, thank you, and thanks for the interview.

Bartek: Did you enjoy Airwaves 2014?

Florian: Sure! It was my fourth time in a row and it’s always probably the best time of the year.

Bartek: Who gave the best show in your opinion?

Florian: Difficult to say. I know so many icelandic bands, that it’s hard to tell which one, or which show, I liked the most. I’m attending 30-50 concerts each Airwaves, so it’s hard to choose THE one, best of the year… But ok, I think my personal favorite last year was the concert of Kiasmos, as I saw them live for the first time and really love their debut album.

Bartek: Could you tell us more about yourself, how old are you, where are you from, where do you live?

Florian TrykowskiFlorian: Sure! I’m 31 years old, living in germany (southern germany..or you might say „Bavaria” :), about 10 kilometers from where I was born. Not that exciting. After my Abitur certificate and the apprenticeship as advertisment photographer, I started working self-employed in 2007. Most time I’m working in the advertising/commercial photography business, doing PR, image campaigns and stuff for almost every kind of company. Sometimes I do weddings when I’m asked for (mostly for friends or people I know somehow).

During the last years, my work for the tourism industry is getting more and more important – and then there’s the music photography which now takes a LOT of time and finally seems to grow to a serious business.

Bartek: Ok. So, tell me, which came first – Iceland, music or photography?

Florian: Well, I think photography came first, when I found some very, very old cameras of my grandfather. Then the usual things happened, photography course in school (oh the good old times of film developing!), amateur photo club in my hometown…Things went faster when my mother spent my twin brother and me our first trip to Iceland after our confirmation – it was in 1997, when travelling to Iceland was yet an adventure and tourists were rare. And surprise surprise, I also got my first „real” camera (my first SLR, I think it was a Minolta) for my confirmation, what a coincidence!

I could imagine, that I’ve been a very annoying kid in our tourist-bus-hop-on-hop-off-group, as I delayed almost everything. I always arrived way too late at the meeting points, because I was too busy taking pictures. At this time I knew, that I could never come back with a regular guided group tour. The music photography started after the Reykjavík culture night in 2009, when my wife and me were amazed about the many musicians playing almost everywhere. I’ve spent too much money at the 12 Tónar record store (as always) and bought an album of Rökkurró some days after the culture night.

Photo by Florian Trykowski
Photo by Florian Trykowski

Some months later, they came to germany and I contacted them, if I could shoot their concert for two spots on the guestlist. And it worked! This was my first concert ever and my first icelandic band ever (thanks, guys, for your trust!) and ended up backstage with Árni introducing me to Jón Gnarr’s comedy while drinking beer.

I also met a journalist friend of mine, Eva-Maria of the great there for the first time. She approached me after the concert and asked if she could use pictures for the blog. We stayed in touch, sure, and until now we’ve published two Airwaves reports with interviews and everything for german magazines about Scandinavia – as well as a lot of stuff for the Polarblog (she’s a great writer, check her out!) and we at least meet every year in Reykjavík.

I still sometimes work in the same way I did for Rökkurró – shooting for guestlist, especially for bands I really like and want to support, coming to Germany.

But things evolved more and more, and now I’m working for some major festivals and events in germany, shot the icelandic music showcase at Eurosonic Groningen for Iceland Music Export this january and there will be way more this year, which I can’t tell you yet :-)

Bartek: And how did it all happen with Iceland? What is the most magic thing about it?

Photo by Florian Trykowski
Photo by Florian Trykowski

Florian: To describe the magic of Iceland is hard without overacting or romanticizing everything.
In my case, my brother, my mom and me returned some more times within the next years, because we really liked Iceland and we wanted to explore it on our own, without sticking to a group. Those journeys layed my iceland-love’s foundation, our family returned again some years ago and is still somehow related with Iceland.

Then I became a couple with my girlfriend (now wife) and luckily her parents won a flight to Iceland – but they have an intense fear of flying, haha! :-) So guess who got the flights? Yeah right. At this time I did my apprenticeship and one topic I had to photograph was – landscape. As you know, you can do cool landscape shots in Iceland…
Yes and then…We totally fell in love with this country, I think. We got engaged there, spent our honeymoon there..and try to return at least once a year.

Photo by Florian Trykowski
Photo by Florian Trykowski

Ah, you asked about the most magic thing – everything. We love the landscape, of course, but also the way of life, the unlimited view to the horizon and the feeling to get „grounded” again. It’s hard to describe – just spend a week at Hornstrandir in the Westfjords, where you only can get by boat, where’s no population, no streets and cities and no nothing. When your boat disappears off the bay where they set you on shore, and you’re alone for the next couple of days and hear absolutely nothing except your blood pulsing in your ears, because it’s so quiet – then you know what I mean with „grounded”. I think that’s why we return again and again. May sound a bit romantic – and I think, it’s not like that when you live here – but for us, it definitely feels like this.

Bartek: For every photographer Iceland is some kind of paradise, fairy-tale landscapes, lava fields, cliffs, lighthouses, mountains, glaciers and unlimited space. It’s all in one place within reach, but you go into the middle of huddled and sweaty crowd of hundred or thousand music fans. What’s so amazing in Icelandic music scene?

Photo by Florian Trykowski
Photo by Florian Trykowski

Florian: Haha, yeah, I do both – enjoy the unlimited space outside AND the sweaty crowd inside. What’s so amazing about the music scene… Everybody knows each other. It’s a huge family and when you’re kind of part of it, you can enjoy that very well. It seems that they’re not afraid of trying things out, so you have a huge range of different music styles and genres and the musicians tend to switch between every genre without any issues. It’s not getting boring at all and it’s always evolving.

Bartek: Does it (Icelandic music scene) still surprise you with anything?

Florian: Yes. It’s getting better year after year. I’m surprised how many new bands come up, or at least try to do so. 2014 I bumped into a tiny venue and met one of the band members outside before. I hardly knew he was a band member – a teenage boy, maybe around 14 or 15 and his mum brought him to his concert by car. And even if I don’t speak icelandic (ok, only some swear words and stuff), I could somehow understand or imagine what she said, when he picked his guitar from the trunk: have fun, see you later, I pick you up in an hour, be good, good luck. It was such a fun moment, looked like she brought him to school or guitar class or what. And guess what, the band was crazy good – sure, they where nervous and a bit shy and had barely ten self made copies of their album, but the audience loved them! That’s what I like, the surprising small bands nobody knows first, but you can feel their passion in what they’re doing – and they just „do it”!

Bartek: I have to say that I really like your photos of the audience. It looks like you feel exactly the same as the crowd. Is that possible to enjoy the show and take great pictures at the same time?

Photo by Florian Trykowski
Photo by Florian Trykowski

Florian: Yes. Some of my friends don’t believe me, but yes, I’m having A LOT of fun during this work.
Sure, it is work: the best photo situations, this one shot of the festival – it lasts for a blink of an eye – so you have to be fast and always try to imagine what the band could do next, even if you don’t know the songs or anything else. You’re neither alone in the venue nor in the pit, everything is mostly packed and sweaty. Watch out for spilled drinks and crowdsurfers, especially at the rougher concerts :) You can’t get as wasted as the audience and you can’t just head into a venue and dance your ass off. But I know a lot of photographers attending Airwaves every year (almost the same „family feeling” like the music scene has) and trust me – we’re having fun. In my opinion, you can’t do this job, when you can’t love doing it –  like you said, it looks like I feel exactly the same as the crowd – and that’s how it is. You’re somehow a part of the crowd, even if you’re on the other side of the crowd barrier sometimes. I love to jump into the wild – going into the middle of a mosh pit is the best way to get crazy good shots. Be sure to have a good insurance, please. I regularly waste one of my lenses or something else expensive during Airwaves.

Bartek: You’ve photographed tens of Icelandic bands live and on photo sessions. Which of your pictures or sessions is the most important for you?

Photo by Florian Trykowski
Photo by Florian Trykowski

Florian: I really love the photo of Arnór (lead singer of Agent Fresco) during their show at Gamla Bio 2014. I’ve seen Agent Fresco about 10 or 15 times maybe, but this one was my favorite show. I stood in the second row with some friends and photo collegues around me and during one song he grabbed Bowen’s hand and did his usual screaming into the crowd – I really love that picture, because it shows exactly how you would experience it firsthand. My flash battery pack literally melted during this concert, suddenly got hot and then it was gone, seconds after this shot. My most important band photos still are those of Dikta, which I shot in my hometown (in one of the famous beer cellars there) and the other one at Tjörnin in Reykjavík. They’re like a metapher for my two favorite towns :)

Photo by Florian Trykowski
Photo by Florian Trykowski

Bartek: And which one was the hardest to take?

Florian: The hardest concert shots are always at concerts of Óli Arnalds. He’s a total genius, you can’t rephrase it ,and I really love his music (actually listening to it right now). And he has the strictest photo rules I know, which is ok – because there are some photographers out there that tend to put their photo results over the concert atmosphere.
Most of Óli’s songs start very silently or even stay silently, and yes, it IS annoying when a bunch of photographers destroy the atmosphere of a song with flashing and loud shutter noises. At least you should wait for the bass / beat to kick in and then do your one, two shots without flash. I always try to keep a low profile and not to cause too much disturbance. I even try do dive, when I recognize that short girl/boy in the front row doing her iPhone photos.

Photo by Florian Trykowski
Photo by Florian Trykowski

So, some concerts are easy – nobody cares about shutter sounds on a metall concert and you can flash the hell out of a techno concert, when there’s already strobe light everywhere. But some concerts are harder to shoot – that’s the way with Óli’s. I actually bought a smaller, silent camera without shutter sound in 2013 because I wanted to photograph his huge concert at Harpa with the icelandic philharmonic orchestra. And the concert definitely was hard to shoot, because it’s way easier with my big loud pro camera – but it was a crazy good and I definitely loved the challenge!

Bartek:  What kind of music do you prefer personally and which of Icelandic artists are your favorites?

Florian: I really can’t reduce it to just a few favorites or my favorite kind of music. I like Alternative, Rock, Techno and Electro the most – but then there are some metall bands I also love, and Hip-Hop made it’s way through me, too, and then some classic stuff and even some singer/songwriters – you see? Hard. My favorite bands are the ones I know the longest..I could name Dikta, Rökkurró, Agent Fresco, Bloodgroup, Árstíðir, Ólafur Arnalds (no particular order).
Most of them I know personally (or at least some of the band members) and I have to go to at least one of their concerts during Airwaves.

Bartek: Do you have any friends among them?

Photo by Florian Trykowski
Photo by Florian Trykowski

Florian: Yes :-) I’m totally in love with the guys of Dikta. Ask them. We’ve been on tour through germany in 2012 and we did a lot of things we can’t ever talk about. No, not really, but it was great fun and I really love them. Hi Haukur, you sexy babe. But I also like the people of Árstíðir and Bloodgroup, I try to meet for a beer with Árni (Rökkurró) since about 2 or 3 concerts (we’re always too busy) and crashed into Arnór (Agent Fresco) about a thousand times during Airwaves ’14 running up and down Laugavegur, which became kind of a ritual after some days. You see, it’s a nice and warm hearted family and I feel really honored to be a small part of it.

Bartek:  Your pictures are well-known to icelandic music lovers from all over the world, but your surname sounds familiar to Polish people. Do you have Polish ancestors?

Florian: Thanks for the compliment :) and yes, my surname is Polish, but I’m not. I don’t even speak a single Polish word :-( Some generations ago my father’s side had Polish ancestors. It’s sometimes a bit hard to get people to write my name correctly, but if they do, I have the first bunch of google pages for myself!

Bartek: And one more question… What is the hardest thing about being concert/bandphotographer?

Florian: Honestly? To get sober afterwards (metaphoric and non-metaphoric :) and to realize that there’s a life afterwards, where you have to work in daily routine, do your office stuff and pay bills. It’s like a drug – once you’ve started with it, you’re always on the hunt for more and more. That’s why I book the trip to the next Airwaves about 4 weeks after the last one, and that’s why I’m working for as many festivals / bands / promoters as possible.

Florian Trykowski on the web:

All the pictures: Florian Trykowski (used by permission)

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