Lina Scheynius’ world is one of simple things. She drinks herbal teas and meditates, she enjoys going for walks and would like to own a cat. Her self-published photobooks are clean, white A5 volumes, the contents of which depict the small moments and details of her life – the delicate veins of flower petals, the burgundy flesh of a plum, the tip of a tongue.
“I think it’s my favourite way to show the pictures,” she says of her books, “and also my favourite way to look at photographs. I don’t go to a lot of exhibitions, I look at pictures online, but really my favourite thing is to have the books, or to go to bookshops and look through them.”
The Swedish photographer has compiled collections of her work since 2008, drawing on her archive of images shot over the last few decades. Now on her ninth publication, 09, her photobooks are thriving, usually quickly selling out.
“I usually start with a few pictures that I’m interested in, three or four maybe, and then I start printing out everything I have that I like,” she says of her approach to making them. “I work on a wall, and I put lots up, and then I start taking some down.”
She doesn’t work to a theme or idea per se, but says that a common concept usually emerges, though “there’s no words that can say it”. She’s inspired by many Japanese artists, but in particular the photographer Rinko Kawauchi, whose exhibition Cui Cui she caught in 2006.
“It was a slide show at the back of The Photographer’s Gallery,” she says. “It was old people and flowers – it was really beautiful and it really felt almost like a family album.”
Like Kawauchi, Scheynius’ images are diaristic, and she has also kept a daily written journal since she was a child. “I write every morning – well, almost,” she says. “I was really shy when I was young, so it was a way to get stuff out that I didn’t dare tell anyone.”
Sharing her photographs became a similar outlet, and in 2006 she began posting on Flickr. Her stark and sultry images quickly gave her a sizeable following – but also a sense of pressure. “There was a time when I couldn’t look through the camera without being aware that someone might see it,” she says. “It was like I was taking pictures for an audience”.
In 2015 she took a step back from social media, and signed off Instagram for four months; now she’s back but posts less regularly and – though her Instagram audience is over 43,000 and her Flickr followers number some 41,000 – says she feels “a lot freer”.
It’s not the first time she’s taken time out to shift direction – Scheynius was once a fashion photographer, commissioned by the likes of Dazed, Vogue and Zeit, but in 2014 stopped shooting after feeling her aesthetic had got compromised.
“There was always an, ‘Oh but, can you do this?’ and I just started compromising more and more. I felt that [my work] started to look more like anyone’s fashion photography, and that was depressing really.”
This summer she returned to fashion with an editorial for Bon, but says it was on her terms. “I said before the shoot, I don’t want a stylist there, I don’t want anyone,” she says. “So no one was on set, there was no hair or make-up ever. It was just these meetings with the girls and it was really free and nice.”
Now Scheynius is back working on her own projects, shooting fewer images but enjoying it more. “I’m not forcing anything,” she says. “Before I felt compulsion to take more pictures, and I was really critical when I was taking them.”
Volume 10 of her ongoing collection of photobooks is now starting to emerge, and Scheynius has also started to think about moving into a more established form of publication. “I’m open if there’s the right publisher, maybe,” she says. “But I feel like this is what I can do on my own.”
09 by Lina Scheynius goes on sale from 07 February, but is available for pre-order now at linascheynius.com. Christophe Guye Galerie in Zurich is showing an exhibition of Lina Scheynius’ work from 26 January – 15 April.