‘I love to meet people and tell their stories’

German photographer Caroline Holt explains to The Local why pictures of the whole family together are so important to her.

'I love to meet people and tell their stories'
Caroline Holt, who is based in Stockholm. Photo: Birgit Walsh Photography

Holt moved to Stockholm, Sweden in 2007. Eight years later she has a family of five, a photography business and a drive to capture the simple and daily moments of families daily life.

The German creative met her British husband while on vacation in Greece back in 2006. With her new-found love already living in Sweden, it only took one year for her to join him.

“We were travelling forward and backwards for a year and then I moved here 2007,” Holt tells The Local. 

Holt says she has always been interested in photography, but it was not until she moved to Sweden that she really began to turn her hobby into business. She had her first child in 2008 and right before the birth, she got a digital camera so she could capture the memories of her family.

Family is important to Holt. Photo: Caroline Holt Photography

Family is important to Holt and she has worked with children for many years. In Germany, Holt had a job as a social worker. In photography, her main focus is also on families. 

“I love to meet people, connect with them and get to know them and their stories. Photography is my medium to tell the story,” she says. 

But there is also another reason why photography is important to Holt. 

“I have a very bad memory and for me it’s like 'freezing in' some memories with photography. I take pictures so I can remember,” she explains.

When asked if there is a reason for her bad memory, she becomes quiet for a second and chooses her words carefully to avoid disclosing too much of her private life and background.

“I don't know. I lost my father very early, when I was 10. So all my memories I have from him comes in pictures,” she says.

“I think that was quite a traumatic experience for me of course, so I think that’s why my memory is also a little bit disturbed.”

Holt explains she did not realise how important the photos from her childhood would be for her in the future.

“When I then had children myself I realised how important that was. Having those pictures.”

She adds that she thinks it is important that the whole family is in the pictures, since the photos from her childhood mostly involve her and her sibling.

“Most people do that. They take a lot of pictures of their children and forget about themselves.”

Holt and her family. Photo: Caroline Holt Photography. 

In 2014, she started her business Caroline Holt Photography, where she focuses on capturing the everyday moments families experience. Her business does not only focus on still photos, but also on documentary filming, following the families around in their natural environment.

“We talk beforehand about what they usually do with the family and they plan some activity they like doing and then I follow them,” Holt explains.

“I go to their home and I capture whatever they are doing and I do portrait sessions as well outside but they are also very playful and with hardly any posing. A little bit of directing maybe.”

Caroline Holt and two of her five family members. Photo: Caroline Holt Photography

Holt enjoys living in Sweden and thinks that Swedish people are nice and friendly, but hard to become friends with.

“In general I enjoy it. The culture is a bit different from Germany and the climate. What gets to me is that winter is much longer.”

When it comes to how to get into the Swedish society, Holt says it is important to find different ways to socialise and learn the language, even though it is easy to get away with only speaking English.

“It’s easy here with English and a lot of people think they can get away with English and they do, of course, most Swedes are happy to speak English to you. But I find it important that we also make that step. I can only recommend making that effort,” she says.

Article by Emma Lidman 

For members


Reader question: When am I eligible for a Swedish pension?

A reader got in touch to ask how long he had to work in Sweden before he was eligible for a pension. Here are Sweden's pension rules, and how you can get your pension when the time comes.

Reader question: When am I eligible for a Swedish pension?

The Swedish pension is part of the country’s social insurance system, and it can seem like a confusing beast at times. The good news is that if you’re living and working here, you’ll almost certainly be earning towards a pension, and you’ll be able to get that money even if you move elsewhere before retirement.

You will start earning your Swedish general pension, or allmän pension, once you’ve earned over 20,431 kronor in a single year, and – for almost all kinds of pension in Sweden – there is no time limit on how long you must have lived in Sweden before you are eligible.

The exception is the minimum guarantee pension, or garantipension, which you can receive whether you’ve worked or not. To be eligible at all for this, you need to have lived in Sweden for a period of at least three years before you are 65 years old. 

“There’s a limit, but it’s a money limit,” Johan Andersson, press secretary at the Swedish Pension Agency told The Local about the general pension. “When you reach the point that you start paying tax, you start paying into your pension.”

“But you have to apply for your pension, make sure you get in touch with us when you want to start receiving it,” he said.

Here’s our in-depth guide on how you can maximise your Swedish pension, even if you’re only planning on staying in Sweden short-term.

Those who spend only a few years working in Sweden will earn a much smaller pension than people who work here for their whole lives, but they are still entitled to something – people who have worked in Sweden will keep their income pension, premium pension, supplementary pension and occupational pension that they have earned in Sweden, even if they move to another country. The pension is paid no matter where in the world you live, but must be applied for – it is not automatically paid out at retirement age.

If you retire in the EU/EEA, or another country with which Sweden has a pension agreement, you just need to apply to the pension authority in your country of residence in order to start drawing your Swedish pension. If you live in a different country, you should contact the Swedish Pensions Agency for advice on accessing your pension, which is done by filling out a form (look for the form called Ansök om allmän pension – om du är bosatt utanför Sverige).

The agency recommends beginning the application process at least three months before you plan to take the pension, and ideally six months beforehand if you live abroad. It’s possible to have the pension paid into either a Swedish bank account or an account outside Sweden.

A guarantee pension – for those who live on a low income or no income while in Sweden – can be paid to those living in Sweden, an EU/EEA country, Switzerland or, in some cases, Canada. This is the only Swedish pension which is affected by how long you’ve lived in Sweden – you can only receive it if you’ve lived in the country for at least three years before the age of 65.

“The guarantee pension is residence based,” Andersson said. “But it’s lower if you haven’t lived in Sweden for at least 40 years. You are eligible for it after living in Sweden for only three years, but it won’t be that much.”