About Photographer Claes Grundsten

My home is on an island, Ingarö in Stockholm archipelago. I became exposed to the nature south of the city early on, around the same time I got a camera in my hands. Nature studies, the outdoors, authoring texts and photography have been common threads in my life since my teenage years. I studied physical geography, geology and biology at Stockholm University, where I was later employed at the Department of Physical Geography to work with mapping the vegetation in Swedens mountains. During this period, I practised my ability to distinguish colour and patterns in the landscape, which has been of great help in my creative photography. A part of that work was to analyse infrared aerial photographs. For four summers, I hiked vast sections of the Vindel and Arjeplog mountains to compare the aerial photographs with reality, and I managed to publish three vegetation maps from these regions.

The research environment at the university was stimulating, but my commitment to nature conservation led me to the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1978, where I began as a project manager for an inventory of mountain fauna. Later, I was responsible for the large mountain investigation that the agency conducted as a request from the government and the Swedish parliament. Due to my interest in nature, nature studies and my commitment to nature conservation, I became a government official. Yet, I had difficulty living with this roll. My time at the Swedish EPA was filled periodically with controversial issues concerning national parks in the mountains, and in meantime I began to develop my activities as a publicist. The book Sweden’s National Parks was published in 1983, which I initiated at the agency, wrote the texts to, and was the principal photographer for. It became a huge success. At this time, I also became a member in The Association of Swedish Nature Photographers and began selling photo rights through their picture agency.

Much in my life has been about photography. I shot amateur film during my teenage years, but went over to still photography during the late 1960s and after that stopped filming. In the 1970s, I published numerous articles and my photography received new life when I was awarded the Victor Hasselblad scholarship for young nature photographers. Several books were later published. After Sweden’s National Parks, I worked with the series of guidebooks Vandra Kungsleden regarding the famous Royal Trail and surrounding mountain areas, some of the books are now translated to English and German. These were at first produced by the Swedish Tourist Association (STF).  All the while, my life became more and more divided.  I was both happy and unhappy at the EPA. The working tasks and colleague friendships were the positives, but the forms of bureaucratic work were difficult for me to adapt to. I wanted to become my own and devote all my energies to my photography and publishing activities.

In 1993, I jumped all in and gave in my notice as department officer at the EPA. A new path would be embarked upon, and this during a recession. The situation was liberating and worrying at the same time. Money had to be brought in, a stress factor, but the newly gained freedom was wonderful. To live as a freelancer was my way. Since that moment I have been rewarded several times for my photography and books, and in September 2011 I was awarded an Honorary Doctorate at Stockholm University.

In many of my books and articles produced throughout the years, the Swedish mountains have been the common denominator. I have spent time and worked in the mountains in various ways all my life, from my first private mountain tours, by way of field biological inventories and nature conservation, to my present occupation as a mountain photographer and even occasional guide. I have also written extensively about national parks and world heritage.

Please have a look at my book production.