If you’re not familiar with photographer Daniella Midenge—get familiar. The Swedish image maker, currently based in Los Angeles, was the genius behind the lens of one of our two recent GEN V covers with Tate McRae. However, McRae is only the most recent of a long slue of celebrities Midenge has made look better than ever, including Jennifer Lopez, Kourtney Kardashian, Pamala Anderson, and many (many) more.

Upon the release of her collaboration with GEN V, V magazine spoke with Midenge about other photographers you should know, how she turned a hobby into a career, and balancing paid gigs with more experimental work.

Photography Daniella Midenge (self-portrait)

V: Can you remember the first photo you ever took?

Daniella Midenge: I was in the Swedish archipelago on a sailing trip with my family, [and] I was about 9 years old and it was with an analog camera of the sunset. My dad , who was a huge enthusiast, showed me all the settings. We even had a darkroom at home in the wardrobe. I do think there is a limit with what you can learn through school, and I would recommend assisting after a basic course, I think it is more efficient once you know what field of photography you are curious to explore and you don’t have to waste your time shooting vases if you are into long legs.

V: When did photography switch from a hobby to a career? And then to a full-time career?

DM: In about 24 hours when I had my ex-boyfriend’s 16 year old cousin hanging off the balcony, while on Torstrasse in Berlin, while I experimented with photos for my make-up and hair portfolio. I thought to myself, “Wow, this looks quite amazing,” and immediately felt a calling. I was determined to make it a career quite instantly, but it did take about a year of living on barely nothing but optimism before I got busy and started booking jobs. 

V: What was your first paid gig as a photographer?

DM: A South African Marie-Claire cover with Candice Swanepoel in the staircase of a Thai restaurant in New York.

Photography Daniella Midenge (self-portrait)

V: How do you balance “paid” gigs with doing photography just for yourself, or for art’s sake?

DM: I’ll admit that I’ve been caught up with advertising jobs for the past few years and I’m now getting back to more [experimenting]—the birth of how a passion turns into a job. I opened a daylight studio in Los Angeles recently since my dream was always to be in a natural light based environment so now there is no excuse not to use it as often as possible. It is also available to other photographers and creatives, it is a huge outdoor space all in stone, [and was] a former tennis court that I painted out, [it’s] also beautiful for events, filming, and exhibitions and completely private for nudes (*laughs*).

V: Who is a (perhaps lesser known) photographer that you think anyone who wants to be a photographer should study? 

DM: Dan Beleiu, I adore! I do think the best study is your own creativity and exploration, trial and error, play and fearlessly trying out everything until you feel a high on what turns you on visually. Your eye will organically seek out the photographers that are compelling to you. For instance, I appreciate a lot of photographers whose styles are very different to mine.

Photography Daniella Midenge (self-portrait)

V: What types of art or creativity do you take inspiration from outside of photography itself?

DM: Characters and moments in real life, it can be very random cinematic scenarios, or short moments of something that feels like a surreal dream or a scene from a movie, but in real life. Lots of comedy, [both] accidental and spontaneous. Movies and books are more obvious inspirations and someone else’s fantasy, [but] I am more inspired by where my own mind takes me, triggered by what I see and feel—I often times surprise myself. 

V: Do you find any vast (or general) differences in how Swedes approach photography as opposed to Americans, or perhaps particularly Los Angelites?

DM: Scandinavians have a more melancholic and minimal approach, emphasizing depth while the Angelinos are more about showing something perfect and positive, and this goes for how people communicate also—it is more direct and frank at home, with lots of sarcasm, whilst here I am sometimes uncertain of the authenticity since everything is targeted towards positivity. On another note, it does feel good to get an “OMG!” from a client when they receive the images, instead of “That looks nice.”

Photography Daniella Midenge (self-portrait)

V: Can you describe your day shooting the GEN V cover with Tate McRae? 

DM: Tate was phenomenal, we were at my studio in the Hollywood Hills and she was open to all ideas and had a beautiful fearless presence about her. Very confident in-front of the camera and great body control—a natural!

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