Photographer Petra Kleis reveals what it’s like to shoot Lily Collins and Tobias Rahim ahead of her Fredriksborg exhibition

By Allyson Shiffman

Photo: Petra Kleis for Vogue Scandinavia

Delve into the exhibition at Frederiksborg Castle, where Danish photographer Petra Kleis presents over 70 portraits of the Nordics' leading figures, and discover the stories behind her celebrated photographs

Even when shooting our region’s biggest names, there’s a certain intimacy to Petra Kleis’ photographs. Now, that very visual intimacy is brought to one of Denmark’s grandest spaces. An exhibition at Frederiksborg finds over 70 of the Danish photographer’s portraits hung on the castle’s hallowed halls. The images, some of which were shot for this very magazine, reveal the singular relationship Kleis forms with her subjects, who range from Lily Collins to Tobias Rahim to HM Queen Margrethe.


Open today through February 4th, the exhibition is further proof that Kleis is a bona fide star of the Nordics, one we are proud to call a Vogue Scandinavia contributor. Below, the photographer gives us a behind-the-scenes look at how five of her most indelible images were captured.

Clara Rugaard

Photo: Petra Kleis for Vogue Scandinavia

“It was actually my summer vacation, and I had absolutely promised myself (and my boyfriend) not to work in my much-needed vacation, but then Vibe Dabelsteen, my “work wife" and Vogue stylist, called and said that we couldn’t say no to Vogue Scandinavia and Clara and that it had to be ‘now’… 

We never planned a Vogue shoot that fast, which was kind of a good (and a bit stressful) experience for us. We ended up shooting the whole editorial in my summerhouse. Clara lives in London, but she is Danish, so she was visiting family in a summerhouse an hour away from mine.

So after “Benny” from Benny’s Local Taxi dropped Clara off at my place, we said hi and absolutely hit it off. Super fun, super easy, cool, wise – the whole freakin’ package. She is even good with kids and animals, which I know because we were babysitting Bobbi and Daisy, make-up artist Mette Schous’ guinea pigs, and I thought we should use one of them as a model in the shoot. So Clara and Bobbi (who had the best fur colour to match the Stine Goya dress Clara was in) shared a straw of grass in a fantastic picture. The kids part I know because my twin girls, who were also there, talked about Clara for hours after the shoot.

That day just kind of felt like friends spending a day together, maybe because we were all pretty much on holiday. Josephine May did the cool hair, and Anne Staunsager did the artistic make-up. And although this pic looks sunny and dry, it poured for 95 per cent of the day! We had thunderstorms like there was no tomorrow! We almost killed a Versace dress (the black one Gaga wore to the Oscars) because of the rain. We did a picture of Clara standing in a tiny boat in the Fjord at my summerhouse, and we all had to go ass bare in the water, carrying Versace and cameras, trying not to get seagull poop or salt water on any of it. Legendary!” 

Ayşe Dudu Tepe

Photo: Ayşe Dudu Tepe for Financial Times

“Ayşe Dudu Tepe has many skills. She is not only a radio host, a writer, and a mother; she is also a Balenciaga model. I have the deepest respect for Ayşe. You can trust that she will always be honest and super sharp, always. I love a person who is unafraid of telling you the truth even though it isn’t always nice to hear. Her sarcasm, wit and super dry humour are fantastic. I absolutely love her appearance. For me, she represents a different kind of feminism that is cool above all. I would give my left arm to have just a tiny bit of her cool. For this particular shoot, which we did for Financial Times, we did full Balancing looks and played around doing a lot of different stuff. But this particular picture, which ended up as the cover, stood out. There is a softness and a vulnerability to her face and posture. She looks like a dark angel, I think.” 

Lily Collins

Photo: Petra Kleis for Vogue Scandinavia

“Lily Collins I shot for Vogue Scandinavia! What a gift, and what a stressful day! I was super nervous – Lily is a superstar, and we didn’t know each other. Often, when I shoot people, we kind of know each other, and that is a big help… It turned out Lily was the sweetest and super easy to work with. 

The super stressful part was that we had to drive around to the most crowded and touristy spots on a warm summer day (meaning lots of tourists and Danes) in Copenhagen. Lily is working with Cartier, and therefore, we had a lot of Cartier jewellery with us, meaning the jewellery has a lot of bodyguards with it, so we were a giant team who took up a lot of attention, especially when people saw our superstar Lily. What a day! I remember being so relieved and happy,  driving to my summerhouse after the shoot, getting myself the biggest, coldest beer on the planet!”

Tobias Rahim

“Tobias Rahim and I first met when I had to shoot his press pics for his first Danish album. This picture is from that session. At that time, he wasn’t really that famous in Denmark. We met at my studio on one of the warmest days of the year; everybody was sweating like a maniac. I remember thinking that Tobias was something special when he walked in. He is 2 meters high, had brought a pink suit, a blue cowboy hat, a lot of flowers and some cherries. We did so much good work that day, and what we also did was a spontaneous “naked picture session”. Tobias’ career exploded half a year or so after this shoot, and Tobias and I agreed to make posters of some of the naked pics and everybody wanted a poster, understandably! He is a handsome man with the gift of charm. This picture has always been a favourite of mine. Tobias’ skin, the blue has, the moustache, the armpit hair, the look just makes it magical, cool, and fun. I remember that after this session, Tobias, Linus (his manager) and I jumped in the ocean, had a beer, smoked a cigarette and kind of knew that we did something special that day.” 

Arvida Byström

Photo: Petra Kleis for Eurowoman

“I had known of Arvida Byström for a long time before I finally got to shoot her. She is just a legendary person who is not only a super-talented photographer but also a respected artist. 

She does super cool self-portraits that have both humour and irony while being critical of the society we live in. I was shooting Arvida for Danish Eurowoman, and we had to go to Arvida's hometown in Sweden to do it. 

The experience was magical. Shooting a person free in her body and willing to play along is a total gift. I love this picture, her beautiful face and the fairytale pink hair and then the distorted, blurry body underwater in the Swedish lake in the perfect evening light. 

Her super feminist art is now hanging in the room of my twin girls! We all love it.”