Martina Wärenfeldt – Balancing on the edge of fine art

Martina Wärenfeldt is a master of creatively styled, illustrative portraits that come off looking like paintings, often with a beautiful, slightly haunted look to them. Painterly portraiture takes inspiration from the old masters with skilful lighting and a harmonious colour palette.

As a child Martina dreamt of becoming an artist. But it was only after she got her first camera at the age 18, that she realised photography was her true calling. She was living in America at the time and wanted to study something that would qualify her for a profession. Deciding she wanted to work with photography, she started taking photography classes at the Santa Monica College in Los Angeles.

Even when loaded with passion and talent, it takes courage to realise one’s dreams. Lucky for Martina, she had people around her who saw potential in her and encouraged her to start shooting professionally, even before she was finished with her studies. Brave and youthfully hopeful that it would be possible to live off of photography, she opened up her first studio in Sweden at the age of 26. That was 24 years ago, and she is still as successful as ever.

A defining moment for Martina’s career was when she hit upon what has now become her signature style of painterly portraits. She was photographing her children with their cousins to make Christmas presents for the family and while testing the lights her daughter gave her a very serious, almost sad face with a soulful presence in her eyes that deeply touched Martina’s heart. She created her first painterly portrait of that shot and hasn’t looked back since.

Although there are countless photographers who inspire her, Martina’s first idol was Herb Ritts: “He had so many creative sides and always seemed to have had a lot of fun with his photography. First, he made simple yet powerful portraits, then creative portraits, moving on to artful nudes and finally African documentary portraits. His range was incredibly wide and the work always captivating.” Martina also loves how Ritts saw beauty and possibilities everywhere, in every corner of every room.

Martina Wärenfeldt, a Swedish portrait photographer.
Martina Wärenfeldt, 50
Portrait photographer

Instagram: martina_warenfeldt

“The creative brain rarely rests”

Martina’s advice for aspiring photographers is to study what others are doing. Not to mimic them, but to be inspired by and to learn from them. Once you have mastered the technique, you can start to develop your own style within that genre. “It is so important that you are true to yourself and not trying to be somebody else,” Martina stresses. She also advices photographers building their portfolios to try to find interesting characters to model for them; people who bring something special to the portrait. As for creative and painterly portraits, she says: “Go bananas over props and clothes! No creative portrait photographer can have too many props!”

Finally, Martina’s ultimate photographic dream would be to find the funding that would allow her to work on a creative charity project for a year that would culminate in a gallery exhibition. She finds it important as an artist to help others, whether artistically, creatively or simply by providing food for the soul; she aspires to give back to the world the inspirations she gets from it.

Martina Wärenfeldt’s kitbag

Martina’s favourite kit includes a Canon EOS R5 as well as Canon lenses: RF 24-105 F4L IS USM, RF 50mm F1.8 STM and EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS II USM.