Photographer, Creative, and Explorer, Anders Bybjerg | Retrospec Community Series

We have had the pleasure of working with the wildly talented Anders Bybjerg on several of our products over the last year.

Last fall, Anders took our 1970s Klunker-inspired bike, Sully, through the red and golden hues of Minnesota’s fall and up to Chicago’s waterfront. The results were nothing short of stunning. Sully looked at home through winding paths framed by a canopy of fiery leaves.

Anders’ work is as warm and inviting as it is adventurous; like a friend unexpectedly made while traveling alone. Hailing from Denmark, Anders spent the last few years in the Midwest by way of Illinois, having attended Illinois Institute of Technology. Instead of pursuing a career alongside his Masters in finance, Anders took the road less traveled and pursued his passion, photography.

Anders’ work reads like a nostalgic daydream; a refreshing departure from the types of outdoor photography typically seen on Instagram. The juxtaposition between the concept of “wanderlust” and condensing such awesome landscapes into a palm-sized screen isn’t lost in Anders’ creative approach, as well as his openly conflicted relationship with social media.

Interestingly, the outdoor community’s influence and reach on social media appears to reflect a larger societal push toward appreciating our public lands as sanctuaries for all. However, the attempt to filter vast landscapes into 1:1 images seems flippant, dismissive, and counter to these vistas that deserve more than capricious digital metrics. Anders’ work counters this pervasive lens through genuine, thoughtful scenes, portraits, and frozen moments in time. To use a term so excessively used in this industry, Anders work is notably authentic.

We chatted with Anders about his unique experience on between continents, his relationship with social media, his life goals, and the lessons photography has taught him.

R: Describe yourself, who you are, and what you do

AB: This one's not easy! Actually, I've been struggling with this exact question for myself for quite a while now. Let's start with the basics and I'll elaborate as we go.

I'm 23, I'm fully Danish and grew up in Denmark and The Netherlands. Ultimately I ended up moving to Chicago to study and play college basketball. After graduating I moved to Minneapolis for a few years. I'm back in Denmark now and struggling a little with how much I miss life in America. I love sports, the outdoors, my best friend Smoky (my Aussie) and just about anything creative.

Photography is a big part of my life and something I'd love to do for the rest of [it]. I consider myself a photographer at heart and really want to be making photographs of everything I come across in life. That's not always easy because sometimes you need to make a little money too, and so it's wonderful to have the opportunity to be able to photograph lovely people getting married, engaged, or shoot for fantastic companies, like Retrospec, who value and care for the people they work with and offer the opportunity to make money in the process. 

The answer to what I do is going to be in two parts. I want the answer to be that I tell stories. That my photography and my life is about capturing a story and conveying something with it. 

 I do lots of things - I work as a photographer, I go for long walks with my dog, I spend a lot of time thinking about life, and on top of it all, I work odd jobs like [in] retail and cafes here and there to support it financially.

R: Describe your journey from Europe to the U.S. and how that has defined and/or inspired you creatively.

AB: I grew up in Europe and always traveled a lot with my family and my friends so I've been super fortunate to see a lot of the world at a really young age. When I was 17, I moved to Chicago to play D3 college basketball at the Illinois Institute of Technology. This was probably the best experience of my life and really helped me grow as a person. I made the best friends one could ask for, who supported me and pushed me to pursue my creativity and my photography. 

My time in the US was the first time I felt free to explore that [creative] side of myself, but what really defined and inspired me creatively were the long road trips from the Midwest to the East and West coasts. Spending time driving across America, camping on public lands, and living carefree with nothing to do but appreciate and document my surroundings is really the thing I fell for in all of this.

Since then, I've always been attached to my camera and making photographs. My inspiration comes from just about everything I see and do in life. What I'm drawn to and what I find aesthetically pleasing, funny, or even thought-provoking is what determines the photographs I make, and so I'd say everything I've experienced in my life has gone into defining my photographic style and it will likely continue to.

R: Do you feel that photography has taught you any important life lessons? 

AB: Presence of mind and observing my surroundings with complete care and naiveté. Intuitively following your instincts and emotions is such a simple thing because it inherently yields the best photographs. Carrying that over to life can be difficult and scary. I haven't mastered it but I always keep it in mind. 

Acceptance is another big one. A recent revelation and something I picked up from a podcast [featuring] my favorite photographer, Joel Meyerowitz. No direct quotes here, but the basic premise (or at least how I interpreted it), was that every time we take a photograph, we say "yes" to something, and we let that moment live on. In life, I often catch myself living in resistance to the changes happening around me, trying to grasp onto the world I know, instead of accepting what is happening and letting it live on. I take thousands of photographs a year and "accept" those moments into my life, and the moment they're gone I learn from it, move on, and start looking for the next. I want to live my life like that.

Diligence has got to be the last one. Photography [has] ups and downs in all forms. It's really taught me to just stay the course and keep working on my craft. 

"Everything yields to diligence."

R: How would you describe your relationship with outdoor photography? Do you feel photography enhances or restricts your “in-the-moment” time spent outdoors?

AB: I'd describe it as a love/hate relationship. I love the outdoors. Sometimes I forget my camera or batteries are dead and I [become] so focused on that "mistake" that I forget to enjoy the moment. Other times, I have my camera with me and I consciously choose to just not use it. Some moments are better to just be lived fully and the memories are enough. I always try to focus on experience over photographs. Mostly because the photos won't be any good if no one is enjoying themselves. Generally, I'm with my friends or family in the outdoors and it's hard to resist photographing people we love in [the] places we love. Honestly, a big thing that has helped all this is shooting film. Making the photograph, moving on, and not spending time looking at a screen to see if you got it just right. 

R: We’d argue that the best memories are made while adventuring outside. Is there a certain outdoor experience that stands out as the greatest memory to you?

AB: Summer of 2017, right after graduating college, I took a trip with my dog Smoky (who was just a puppy then) and my girlfriend at the time. We drove from Chicago to the Northwest, down the coast to Southern California, and back up the coast and then back to Minneapolis, living out of my car and camping the entire Summer. That trip was an absolute blast but also one of the most intense growing experiences I've ever had. We spent so much time in the outdoors and felt so connected to each other and the world around us. A great reminder of what living really should be.

R: How do you strike a balance between the demands of Instagram and social media vs. living in the moment? 

AB: In short, I don't. I'm really terrible at it. Sometimes I'm on Instagram two hours a day and loving every second. Lately, I can't even get myself to open the app and scroll to see what's happening. I have had short stretches in the past where I've found the balance but I can't say I've come to a place where I can keep that balance. One day, when Instagram is dead and gone, I'll figure it out.

R: What are your favorite types of projects to work on? Experiences, products, portraits, etc. and why?

AB: All of it. I want to shoot sports, concerts, cars, bikes, weddings, street, landscapes. If I had to narrow down, I'd say my favorite thing to capture is people doing what they love. Whether that's cooking, building, playing soccer, driving their Prius. I think there's something so special and such magical energy that is put out into the world when people are doing what they're passionate about. The expressions on their faces, the way their hands move quickly but carefully, the intensity and focus in their eyes. That's probably the closes thing to a "favorite" for me.

R: If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

AB: California. Hands down. Why? Yosemite, Big Sur, Lake Tahoe, San Francisco, LA, the coast, the mountains, the desert, the valley, the hills, I could go on but I think I've made my point. Also, the people. I'd love to live in New York City someday too but probably for a limited period of time. California is where I want to call "home" for the rest of my life.

R: Describe your perfect weekend

AB: Morning coffee in a mountain town while the sun is rising, going for a walk to enjoy the light and fresh morning air, then a day of shooting something rad. Maybe an outdoor wedding in the fall or a Retrospec bike on some back roads. Then a nice cozy dinner with friends or family in the evening. The next day would have to be for hiking, kayaking, swimming and just being outdoors with good people and my dog. It could be a hot, sunny day, or a day where the snow dumps on us. Either way, I just like extreme weather. Sunday night at home watching football and grilling is the perfect end to the weekend.

R: How do you take your coffee?

AB: With a splash of cream. I realized recently that I quite enjoy black coffee, but the color of black coffee with a splash of cream in it has got to be one of my absolute favorite things. So I'm sticking with cream.

Phew - that was a lot of typing. Time to go outside!

Keep up with Anders and his explorations on Instagram.