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Around the World with the photographer Christian Friis

Here is your chance to meet the fashion photographer who has shot portraits of stars such as Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Antonio Banderas and is one of today’s most acclaimed fashion photographers in the Nordic region.

Actually, starting an internship as a photographer after finishing upper secondary school was originally his mother’s idea. It proved to be a great one. The moment he stood behind a camera, the young Christian Friis was hooked and, just a few years later, there he was in New York rubbing shoulders with celebrities, movie stars and musicians.


“I was hooked immediately. What fascinates me is that there’s always something new to create, and no two days are the same. My job has taken me almost all over the world – from Russia to Australia, Central America and the United States – even Alaska”

says Christian Friis. 


Read all about his life behind the lens, meeting some of today’s biggest celebrities and what it is like having the world as your office at a time when travel is impossible.

Behind the façade


When he first encountered the world of photography, it was the craft itself that really captured his interest. But, according to Christian Friis, if you really want to make it, that is not enough. A skilled photographer also needs a certain human touch. That was something he learned at the tender age of 21, when he was tasked with luring a disgruntled rap star back in front of the camera.  


“Snoop Dogg had returned to his trailer, because he didn’t feel like being on the set. So my boss, whom I was assisting on the shoot, asked me to get him out again. I’d just arrived in New York. I felt like someone who’d just arrived on the 4 Train, but there I was having to knock on the door. I remember it was a bit of a challenge.” 


Since then, there have been a number of similar experiences. But today what really interests the 44-year-old fashion photographer is not so much names as the people behind them. As he says:  


“After so many years in the industry, it’s not really something that affects me anymore. Behind the façade, most people are pretty down to earth.”


That is why, over the years, he has developed a particular penchant for the portrait genre. In this context, Christian Friis’s primary task is to bring out the best in the person standing in front of him. That requires depth of insight.


“Photographing and talking to all the different people is such an enriching human experience. Often they also have some back story that I can incorporate into the photos. In general, I think it’s important for a photographer to be interested in the person standing in front of the camera. You can get to know about a person pretty quickly simply by asking them where they come from, or what they do.”  

Morocco à la Sweden


It is now 20 years since Christian Friis first set foot in New York, but that was just the first foreign trip out of many. In an ordinary year, he travels several times a month and thinks nothing of nipping to the other side of the globe in the quest for the perfect setting. 


“I definitely prefer shooting on location. When you’re outdoors, the atmosphere is so inspiring. It’s not the same when you’re standing in a studio, blowing sand over some palm trees and a fake backdrop.” 


Of course, his calendar looks quite different right now when we cannot flit freely between national borders as we usually do. The situation calls for changes and a plan B approach, but does not necessarily entail cancellations. For example, this summer, when a Boozt shoot had to be moved to Scandinavian soil at the last minute, Christian Friis and the team managed to conjure up an exotic setting just a few hours’ drive from Copenhagen. 


“In Scania County [ed. in Sweden], we transformed an area of heathland into a quasi-African landscape. We were incredibly lucky weather-wise and there’s no way you can see that the photos were shot in Sweden. It helps when there’s a blue sky and it looks warm, right?” 



New life, new opportunities


There is no doubt that the past year has made working in the fashion world challenging. But for Christian Friis it has not been only for the worse. He looks back at 2020 as a year that not only made him appreciate his home territory, but also the vast international network he has created during his two decades in the industry.   


“Given that it’s so hard to send people to Denmark, new projects have also come my way. For example, I shot a series of portraits of Jeremy Strong [ed. from Succession] for a foreign magazine. He lives in Denmark. So I ended up with the assignment because someone I’d met in New York 20 years ago knew that I was in Copenhagen,” he explains. 


“After travelling so much, I actually think we’re very privileged here in Denmark. Everything around production can be done faster and more easily. That makes shooting in Denmark incredibly liberating. The Danish fashion industry has been evolving steadily for many years. There are clearly many more opportunities than there used to be.”