Sonja Bohman

Aquatic tranquility

by: Beata Ulvsbäck | Augusti 27, 2021

Aqua av Sonja Bohman
Photo: Sonja Bohman

Sonja Bohman’s imagery lets the viewer transcend into a tranquil world of water and harmony. Each photograph is its own universe of emotion and color, as if time has stopped to catch its breath.

When I speak with Sonja I feel noticeably safe in her creative presence. She calls herself a ”hobby photographer” and for her it seems to be more about the emotion, to create images with gusto. And the conscious decision of not turning her art into a job.

However, behind her images of water drops lies hours and hours of research, patience, and trials. The expression of the drops are cleanly composed and carefully planned, and complex and varied expressions are created with color and direction of the water.

You can easily tell by her particular accent that she is from Stockholm, and there is a certain way she pronounces words in conversation. I love it, but have yet to master the trait. To be precise she lives in Tyresö just north of Stockholm with her husband Stefan and her four sons. And four dogs. By education Sonja is an economist and by profession an accountant.

”It’s what puts food on the table”

– It’s what puts food on the table, Sonja says with laughter. One could argue that economy and accounting are a contrast to her creative and experimental photography. Perhaps it is precisely this contrast that gives her the lust, and yearning to create.

She tells me that she has always had an interest in photography, but it didn’t really take off and became fun until the advent of the digital era around 2004. She took an evening course in digital photography and through that course she discovered the Swedish photography site fotosidan.se, where she became a member and spent a lot of time.

– I was so inspired by the images on fotosidan and thought ’I want be able to shoot images like these’. And so I started to practice. And practice. And practice.

Lust, joy, and curiosity is what infuses our conversation. Sonja tells me about her photography with such passion there is no doubt in my mind she truly loves what she does.
Porträtt av Sonja Bohman
Photo: Sonja Bohman

The eager Sonja learned to photograph macro, landscape, and portraits. She asked around in the forums—and the forums replied. She started out shooting mundane motives like animals, children, flowers but after some 10 years she felt something was missing.

– You reach a point where you feel like these images are done now. The flowers look the same, the landscape… well the clouds can vary, but I felt I needed something that could bring the spark back.

 

Sonja started ”dripping,” as she herself describes it, in 2017 and is completely self-taught. Her knowledge today is literally acquired by clicking. She started with the kitchen faucet and quickly got the bug. Something stirred inside of her, and she felt an urge to explore the infinite shapes and possibilities of water. The solid work of Sonja can be thought of as advanced scientific work. In order to achieve exciting shapes of the water, merely dripping from one direction with one light wasn’t enough. She had to find new creative ways of experimenting with the drops.

 

– I hung a plastic bag from the ceiling which in which I had made a tiny hole. This slowed down the dripping, but I wasn’t achieving these collisions, and I started wondering how people actually do it.

Fotografi av en vattendroppe i blått och rött.
Photo: Sonja Bohman

She turned to the Internet to advance her research and realized there is help to be found. So she ordered what one could call a ”Drop Machine.” The machine has a container for water and the dripping is automatic. Sonja photographed with this machine for a year before she, once again, felt the urge for more advanced dripping. And more colors.

 

And so her inner scientist, once again, went researching.

 

This time she found a machine with the three containers, and it is this machine she uses to this day. This machine allows her to have three different colors which opens up for more possibilities and exciting compositions. It is with joy she tells me about how different colors yield different results, and how the density and viscosity of the fluids are what makes the difference. Milk, for example, is a good beginner’s fluid thanks to its favorsome relation between weight and thickness.

 

However, Sonja mostly works with colored water. In order to capture the precisely right moment she uses four camera flashes, which along with the machine itself are connected to the computer. She also experiments with plexiglass and different lighting angles in order to produce different effects on the water.

Droppmaskin av Sonja Bohman
The Dripping Machine

I’m spellbound as Sonja tells me about her drops. The sheer amount of hard work, patience, and curiosity behind her images are staggering. And it shows. As a viewer I admire her persistence, and ability to not give up when others would have.

I ask her what it is that makes her do it, and she replies:

 

– But isn’t it the feeling of capturing the perfect image? I mean just look at wildlife photographers who can sit there in their hideout, night after night. It’s kind of the same for me although I sleep comfortably and I’m not camping out in a tent filled with mosquitos, Sonja tells me and laughs. She continues:

– I haven’t captured the perfect image yet and I never will, and this is the human drive. To make it even better, more joyful, more colorful. I ask Sonja if she sees herself as a perfectionist and she replies, ”Yes, absolutely, definitely.”

Tre droppar av Sonja Bohman
Photo: Sonja Bohman

Perhaps the pursuit of perfection is what it takes to find the drive to keep evolving and exploring. When I listen to Sonja I hear a passionate soul driven by the journey towards betterment, filled with trial and error. I hear a person not afraid of failure, because it comes with the game.

”If you take images of water drops, you need to be bloody patient”

– If you take images of water drops, you need to be bloody patient even if you have a helping hand from the machine. So many images end up in the trash, Sonja says. I find someone like Sonja both liberating and inspiring, with such drive and ingenuity. She shoots her drops in her homemade studio I her basement, and can sit there for hours in her pursuit. She jokes about how her husband calls to her from the floor above, asking if everything is alright down there.


So, how long does it take to get that perfect shot? Sonja tells me about how some days she finds a perfect flow and that’s when she achieves so many good images that she doesn’t know which ones to pick. And that other days things are just an uphill battle and almost everything goes in the trash. She talks about the classic ”10%,” by which she means that 10% are kind of good/relatively good, some of which are great and can be used.

 

It is this constant forward motion of trying, and failing, and trying again, that is the biggest drive behind her photography.

Colorfullness är en färgad vattendroppe fotograferad av Sonja Bohman
Photo: Sonja Bohman
Excellence av Sonja Bohman
Photo: Sonja Bohman

It  truly is an artform to find the things you love in life. Things that you can dive into and lose yourself, places where your mind can flow freely. Where the only pressure comes from the goals and limits you create yourself. Sonja and I talk about fears and difficulties when it comes to producing and being creative, whereupon Sonja says that she doesn’t really have any fears.

However, she adds, she can find it difficult, but equally important to create and show things that she is proud of. To not get stuck in a mode where your creations are adjusted according to other peoples taste. Sonja tells me that she once got stuck in a rut like that. She had gotten a lot of uplifting comments and likes and started to adapt her content based on what other people liked. After a while, she felt like she lost herself. She decided she had to change her attitude and listen more to her own voice. Because in the end it doesn’t matter what other people think, as long as you like what you do.

”A cold soul”

The dripping is a winter activity for Sonja. She describes herself as cold person, a cold soul. The dripping really came out of trying to find something rewarding to do in the winter time while keeping warm inside the house.

 

– The dripping is from September to Mars. After that I stow away the dripping equipment. I long for being outside, experiencing the beautiful nature and flowers.

 

In the summertime, Sonja and her husband are out cruising the roads in their camper van. By then it’s the perfect time for outdoor photography again, with the landscape and flowers in bloom. Sonja mainly photographs landscape and macro, the big and the small, as she likes to say herself. She speaks about her photography with warmth and humor and describes the macro photography as stepping into an old pair of slippers.

 

– That makes me feel home—crawling around, shooting flowers, Sonja says and laughs.

Sonja’s imagery possesses an extraordinary tranquility and invites us into the world of water, where stillness is a fact. When looking at Sonjas’s photos, a very special feeling arises, I feel intrigued, moved in some way. When you reach that level of connection with your viewer as an artist, you might think that you would like to keep the answer to ”how?” to yourself. That the artist, or scientist for that matter, would not want to share their secrets with the world. That ones own innovation could lead oneself to success if just kept secret.

 

However, that’s not how Sonja works.

– When someone asks me how I do things, I always answer as honest as I can and I have never kept something secret. Maybe their result will be something that can inspire me back in the future, if there are more of us creating and coming up with ideas.

 

She tells me that she is forever grateful for the help and inspiration she has gotten through fotosidan.se and that this is also one of the big factors why she does not mind sharing her knowledge.

 

I’m taken by her, according to me, healthy relationship with creating and creativity in general. Also the beauty in looking at photography as something that everyone should be able to take part of and help each other forward.

Photo: Sonja Bohman

When  I ask Sonja about the future she talks and emphasizes the time after the photos are taken. When research, implementation and editing are all done—then what? A goal and a dream, for Sonja, is to exhibit her photos. I really understand and sympathize with this longing, and the point of being able to physically show her photos to the world and meet the viewers in real life.

 

There is something special, something unique, that happens when people are gathered in a space together. Discovering, feeling, talking. The tranquil world all of a sudden comes to life.

 

But at this moment it is still late summer, and Sonjas’s dripping equipment has to wait a bit longer. For now the camper van, nature and the landscapes are in charge. Perhaps more so the lust and joy of summer — how the clouds are moving, the flowers blooming.

 

There is a certain beauty in dividing the year and photography into two parts. On one hand the economy work: logic and structured. On the other hand life in the camper van: open and free, together with the changing landscapes and the vibrant vegetation. The contrasts in life that create magic.

 

The big and the small, as Sonja herself would say.

Photo: Sonja Bohman