Interview with Thomas Salme

How and when did you take up photography?

«I was eight year-old when my dad began a career as a semi-professional photographer, in the outskirts of Stockholm, where I was born. The passion for photography was instilled in me during early years, and so was the passion for airplanes. But I only started to work seriously on my photography between 2006 and 2007, when I developed my first projects».

The story of your “peculiar” experience as a pilot has appeared in every newspaper, so I cannot help asking something about it…

«I flew for 13 years without license. My mother passed away when I was eighteen, I was an only child and my dad had just money enough to get me a license for small commercial planes. But I was aiming higher, so I started to study by myself and to train in a flight simulator. By 1997, I felt ready to test my skills in a real plane, so I forged a fake Swedish license and got an interview with AirOne. After a trial period, they hired me as a second pilot. Three years later I got a promotion and became a captain».

So you became a “fake pilot”…

«I accumulated more than 10.000 hours of flying. In 2006 I moved to the English airline Jet2 and later to the Turkish Corendon. In 2010, getting ready to fly a Corendon Boeing 737, I was arrested by the police. I know that I was lucky, I was just fined 2.000 euros and banned from flying for one year. Even though the judges offered me the opportunity of taking the test to get a real license, I decided to give up flying in favour of photography. I felt it was the right decision to make».

Coming to your work as a photographer, can you speak of Swan Dance, the one selected by Alidem?

«Yes, I took this picture in a wonderful city: Amsterdam. It was 2009 and I was still flying. At the time, I used to walk around with my camera to capture the best views of the cities I flew to. I took this picture in January, in a snowy and foggy morning».

Swan Dance’s blurred effect is really fascinating…

«As fascinating as easy, I just used a longer exposure! I would like to remark that I never use photo editing tools, I just try to make the most out of the classic photographic techniques».

What can you say about Antelope #2?

«I took this photograph in 2012. I spent some weeks in the US working on a project and travelling around Utah, Arizona, Colorado; the Antelope Canyon really stuck to me for the amazing difference between day light and night light».

Let’s stay in the US then. Can you speak of New York?

«New York is from 2006. I was visiting a friend’s office, and that place had the most magnificent view on the city. I just could not resist pushing the button of my camera. The colour is slightly desaturated, but I chose not to manipulate the dramatic skyline I was facing - it was astonishing just the way it was!»

Where is Jackson Lake?

«It is in Wyoming (USA). Famous photographer Adam Ansel Adams used to set his black and white photographs there. I went there in May; I woke up in the middle of the night to get to the lake and once there I quickly took several shots all at once, during a brief windless moment. I did not use Photoshop, the mirroring effect is 100% natural. My belief is that taking a picture is not difficult, what is difficult is to find the right perspective».

What about The Arch?

«It is a view of the Canyonlands National Park, in Utah (USA), a place often visited by photographers! I went there at 4am, I started walking and as soon as the sun rose I took around fifty pictures - then I just kept ten of them, the ones that had the best exposure. This photograph was a difficult one, I really had to be fast to get some good light!»

Let’s move to Italy. What about Campiglio?

«In the summer of 2007 I went to Campiglio with one of my sons and I carried my camera with me. I took many photographs of that landscape. It really affected me, in spite of the gloomy clouds that were approaching!»

What are you working on now?

«I am planning my next photo series, I am still thinking of the best location: the choice is between Alaska and Patagonia, as my wife is in Argentina. Furthermore, my biography is coming out in few months. I wrote it with Tom Watt, who had already written Beckham’s biography in 2004. It is called 13 Years in Heaven; it is in english, but the Italian version should be ready after the summer».