People | 20 QUESTIONS

Tokyo babies smile for Solveig Boergen

by Louise George Kittaka

Name: Solveig Boergen
Age: Age is just a number and mine is unlisted
Nationality: German
Occupation: Newborn photographer and owner of Tokyo Bebe, www.tokyo-bebe.com
Likes: Traveling
Dislikes: Not having trips planned to look forward to


1. When and how did you first become interested in photography? I was 8 when my uncle gave me my first camera and I was hooked right away. My grandfather traveled all over the world as a very young man after World War I and I remember how mesmerized I was by his photographs.

2. What bought you to Japan? I arrived as a coordinator for international relations on the JET Programme in 1991, met my husband and never left. I raised our two boys while teaching at a university in Niigata Prefecture. Ten years ago we moved to Tokyo, I gave up teaching and have been photographing newborn babies ever since.

3. Why newborn photography? When a baby is born, our knowledge and experience of love grows in ways that we never thought possible. Every moment is filled with so much joy and wonder and we often wish we could freeze time — newborn photography does just that.

4. What’s the best thing about working with babies and parents? I love seeing the young parents watching as I pose and photograph their precious newborn baby.

5. When working with a baby who is crying or upset, how do you help them to settle? Every baby is different and what works on one might not work on another, but swaddling calms most babies.

6. Any tips for taking better photos of other people? Go a few steps closer and then another step, so you fill your frame with your subjects.

7. What is your favorite camera forwork and leisure? I use Canon cameras for my newborn photo shoots. For travel photography, I love to use a mirrorless camera as it’s small and makes no sound on top of producing great photos.

8. You have lived in Nepal for a while; can you tell us about that? We were in Thailand for my husband’s sabbatical from university. Due to flooding in Bangkok, we went to Nepal to wait out the floods and put our boys in the local school there for a few weeks. They loved it so much that we decided to move to Nepal the following year.

9. How did you start your photography project with local Nepalese people? I was walking down the street with my camera and a woman asked if I could take a photo of her with her baby. This made me think. We were in a city near Kathmandu, where people have much more than those in the countryside. If the families in Kathmandu didn’t have portraits, what about people in the countryside?

10. What did you do next? I hired a car with a driver to take me to places where foreigners or tourists usually don’t go. We went as far as the car could take us and from there we hiked to reach far-away villages. The news spread quickly and sometimes people ran down the hill to catch us and have their portraits taken.

11. What foods do you always have in your fridge? Nattō (fermented soy beans) and tofu.

12. Can you tell us something surprising thing about you that most people don’t know? I was a translator for Chinese literature before moving to Japan.

13. What’s your favorite Japanese phrase?Sumeba miyako.” I believe you can find happiness anywhere, so I chose a phrase that means, roughly translated, “bloom where you are planted.”

14. What do you miss most about Germany? My friends and family and the autobahn, where I can drive as fast as I like!

15. When you have overseas visitors, what’s the one place in Tokyo you love to show them? My favorite restaurant in Mount Takao, Ukai Toriyama. Besides offering great food, it is one of the most beautiful places, with thatched-roof houses in a Japanese garden.

16. You love to travel. Where is the best place you’ve visited so far? I think this would have to be Iran. Not only is it home to the friendliest, nicest people on Earth, but it also has fantastic architecture, beautiful scenery and a rich history.

17. Where can you be found when you’re not working? I love hanging out in artsy cafes, discovering new neighborhoods and seeing art exhibitions. The bookstore in Daikanyama T-Site is another favorite hangout.

18. Who do you admire the most in the world? Maggie Doyne of the BlinkNow Foundation who, from a young age, has dedicated more than a decade of her life to educating children and empowering women. She adopted more than 50 Nepalese children, built a school and founded an organization that supports, educates and empowers women and children.

19. What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you were 21? When you choose a career, just do what you’re really passionate about. You’ll have fun at work every day and this makes your life more enjoyable.

20. If you weren’t taking photos for a living, what other job do you think you’d be doing? I would be a doula or a digital nomad.