Niklas Elmehed is one of the very few individuals who have access to the names of the Nobel Prize recipients before they are announced to the world every year. His role is not that of a judge on the panel but of the artist who draws each gold-leafed portrait of the winners, which then gets used in every magazine, paper, publication, and social media post.
Elmehed has played this role every year since 2012. After the annual announcement of the Nobel Prize Laureates in October, the first official image of each individual released by the organisation is a portrait by Elmehed.
The publication of his portraits became a yearly ritual because of how challenging it was to get their hands on the pictures of the science laureates.
"Many of the science laureates are pretty hard to get pictures of", Elhemed explained to Popular Science in an interview. "If you search for a photo, it's a highly pixelated, low-res image on a webpage somewhere in the world. You just find their face on the staff members page, taken with a lousy camera."
Before Elmehed had stepped in, the announcements always included whatever pictures of the awardees they could find online, reports NDTV.
"I was hired as the art director of Nobel Media and was responsible for all visual content during the announcements in 2012", Elhemed explains on his website.
It was not until 2017 that Elmehed decided that his portraits needed a makeover and added a gold foil touch in his portraits.
"I experimented a lot with different gold paint and fell for the gold foil, a super-thin metal foil that you can put on the painting with a special glue. Together with black outlines, painted on a white background, I think the portraits have a very strong and exclusive impact," he stated.
Although Elmehed is not allowed to disclose how early he has access to the names of the winners, he did confirm that it only takes him a few hours to complete each portrait.