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August 28, 2019

People In beta #3: Sara Herrlander - The Freelance Photographer Who Refused To Be ‘’Lagom’’

Moving from Sweden to Berlin in 2014, Sara sought a new beginning without an exact plan or any expectations for what the city might bring. Five years later, she has found her center standing behind and infront of the camera working as a freelance photographer, videographer, model and actress.

In Sweden, Sara’s home country, the word ‘’lagom’’ means ‘’ Not too much, not too little, just the right amount.’’ It seems like in moving to Berlin, she has taken this concept, turned it around, and made it into her life mantra - both personally and professionally. She has bright blue hair, wears colorful clothes, and doesn’t hesitate to experiment with different things. 

You’ve probably already seen her around betahaus | Neukölln or behind the camera at our 10 years in beta party or Christmas Fest. Here’s what she had to say about her rollercoaster journey and the biggest learnings as a freelancer in a creative field. 


The Girl & Her Story

My first memory of holding a camera is from when I was 7 or 8 driving down from Stockholm to Tuscany on a really long ride through the mountains. The car was driving fast on the highway and I saw these amazing landscape and fairytale castles and wanted to capture them with my little tiny analog camera.

My father was an architect and he was always taking pictures at home. I think this the first impression I got of photos making, but other than that, no one in my family was doing it. It was actually just a few years ago when I really got into photography and friends of mine started really liking my photos and supporting me to pursue this path. I’m completely self-taught. I’ve never studied photography. My university degree is in Digital Media, which didn’t even include photography (apart of some re-touching courses).

Photo by Lea GK


IF YOU NEVER SAW IT AS A PROFESSIONAL PATH, WHAT WAS PHOTOGRAPHY ABOUT FOR YOU BACK THEN?

I didn’t have an easy childhood. I was very introverted as a kid and I spent my time mainly watching and re-watching movies at home. Back then, photography was a way for me to escape my pain and create a new reality. 

When I got my first camera, I saw it as a way of capturing moments that were worth waking up for in the morning. There were, for example, certain people from my surroundings I would never photograph, because they were hurtful to me. I think in this way, I was building a past - a past, that only had the good parts.

Interestingly, a few years later that was the feedback I got in Berlin as well. That I’m capturing people smiling and my photography is full of joy. I think my sadness taught me to keep my eyes open for those moments and it turned out to become ‘’my style’’ and the special thing about my work - I love to capture authenticity and joy in my pictures.

Photo by Lea GK

LET ME GO ONE STEP BACK. HOW DID YOU DECIDE TO MOVE TO BERLIN IN THE FIRST PLACE AND WHAT WERE YOUR EXPECTATIONS BACK THEN? WHAT WAS YOUR PLAN?

Oh, this is actually a rather sad story. Before I came to Berlin, I was really far down. I had my second bout with depression, I was burned-out and I realized that I couldn’t deal with life back in Stockholm, because most of it was connected to the environment. 

I was searching for a new beginning, so it was not a decision which sprung out of any ambitious ideas about Berlin. Actually I had a very vague concept of the city. I came by chance and it turned out to be the best thing that has happened to me. 

‘’I never dreamed of Berlin. Just as I never dreamed of photography.‘’

Back in 2014, when I moved to Berlin, I was just interested in photography and I never considered it as a line of work. I came here with 2 meter long list of creative things I could potentially do including painting and design. But I didn’t really have a clue where to start. Looking back, I'm really happy that I didn't have a bucket list for what to do in Berlin. 

‘’You shouldn't have a bucket list in Berlin. It’s not about achieving things. If you let them, here things just come to you.’'

The first two years in Berlin, I did photography every single day. I guess in that sense, I was always practicing without knowing. Then, slowly, I started getting good feedback from the people around me. I got some projects through friends. People liked my work and things started working out.

Photo by Lea GK


I KNOW THAT ONE OF THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES FOR FREELANCERS IS GETTING CONFIDENT IN THEIR WORK AND STANDING THEIR GROUND AS AN ARTIST. HOW DID THIS WORK FOR YOU?

This was also a huge struggle for me because while most people study, graduate, and become photographers, I was self-taught. I was constantly questioning when I’d reach the point where I can actually call myself a photographer. It really took me a year or a year and a half before I stopped feeling like I was cheating. 

At the start, most of my bookings were based on my personality. And here is one thing I truly believe in: when you’re a freelancer, half the job is about staying curious, and constantly connect with people. I learned to be very good at communicating what I wanted or what I’m missing in life. And the universe has its ways to send these things my way. 

‘’Berlin with its people told me that if you’re enthusiastic and if you have talent, there is space for you here.’’

This is not the case in most cities. Often times, you can’t bypass having certain education or internship, or the right connections. You have to wait in line. In Berlin I didn’t have to wait in line.

Photo by Lea GK


WHAT ARE SOME TIPS YOU CAN GIVE TO FREELANCERS WORKING IN PHOTOGRAPHY OR ANOTHER CREATIVE FIELD?

The first thing would be to not be ashamed of the fact that you’re interested in work or collaboration. I think this is crucial for freelance in general and especially for the creative fields like photography. Ask for work! Of course, you have to find a nice balance between door knocking and pushing but don’t be ‘’lagom’’, don’t make yourself small. Allow yourself to be proud of what you do. 

‘’Think of what you do as an asset to people. Not as if you're begging for work.’’

Another thing I learned is that there's no point in chasing work and clients too forcefully. Just like there's no point in chasing people to like you. People like you when they feel that you are steady and secure and have something that grounds you. When you have your center, people come towards you. It might sound cheesy, but don’t try to please. Just do you.

Lastly, the freelancing lifestyle gives you so much freedom, but at the same time you have to be very structured. It’s extraordinary, because you are the one who takes care of every minute of your life. And this can be exhausting. That’s why I think it’s crucial to have a nice routine. And this is something I discovered through betahaus.

Photo by Lea GK


HOW DID YOU ACTUALLY COME TO BETAHAUS ?

That was also very random. It was a few years ago. I was sent to Bali to work as a videographer for a small documentary for FLYTE. During that month, we were invited to go to a coworking and coliving space in Ubud to set up a friendly and inviting atmosphere for their guests. There, I met a lot of other interesting people, including one of the co-founders of betahaus – Christoph. 

It was a very nice way of learning about betahaus, because I got to hear the personal story behind it. Christoph was talking about his passion, but at the same time, also about the challenges he meets and the changes he'd like to make. I really got a feel for where he was coming from with his idea, where he wants to take it and why he was in Bali. And this made me come and visit it, when I was back in Berlin.

Photo from Bali


WHICH IS ONE SPECIAL OR MEMORABLE MOMENT YOU HAD HERE AS A MEMBER?

Honestly, the fact that I got to work together with you as a photographer for the Christmas Fest, as a videographer for the 10 Years In beta birthday party. That for me was a really big moment because I get to do what I like with the place and people that I actually cherish. I know normally, that's not the case. Most of the times you walk into a new environment, and you try your best to represent yourself in a fair way and match with your clients.

Another really nice moment was when I met Carlo in betahaus. We were friends before that and then I saw him and realized that we both work here. We were so happy to see each other. That setup was amazing to me and made my summer last year so nice. We would have lunch together everyday and the days became so full of joy and good exchange.

Photo by Sara Herrlander


AND IN GENERAL? WHAT WAS YOUR LAST FAVOURITE WORK PROJECT?

The biggest adventure I had this year was being booked to do a videography piece for Maisie Williams, which also came to me really randomly. I hadn't done video in two years, so I was pretty nervous, but I knew it was an amazing opportunity which I can’t miss. During the whole weekend of shooting I was so high on energy that I barely slept , trying to catch up with everything that was happening around me and proving myself that I was capable. And I did!

In order to get a sneak peek of her work process, I challenged Sara to take an ‘’artsy’’ photo representing my personality and gave her the following keywords to work with: whirlwind, dance and nature. Here’s the result.

Photo by Lea GK
Photo by Sara
Photo by Sara

WHERE CAN WE FIND YOU?

Oh, I move around a bit too much (haha), it's very hard to pinpoint one place. (I see my friends laughing right now).

But regarding work, if I’m not at betahaus you’ll probably find me at BICHOU - it’s a beautiful cafe just around the corner. There I always get a hug from the owners, and the best almond milk cappuccino in town. 

Online, you can find my portfolio here or follow my Instagram to become a part of my journey.

''People in beta’’ is a series of blog posts, in which Vihra - our Marketing Manager - interviews teams and members to understand who they are, what they’re most passionate about, and what brought them to coworking. Read more here and become a part of the coworking tribe.

Interested in joining the beta family? Check out our membership options here.

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