His work is generally noted for its naturalism and simplicity. He is considered by many to be one of the greatest cinematographers of all time., BBC News
Nykvist was born in Moheda, Kronobergs län, Sweden. His parents were Lutheranmissionaries who spent most of their lives in the Belgian Congo, so Nykvist was raised by relatives in Sweden and saw his parents rarely. His father was a keen amateur photographer of African wildlife, which may have sparked Nykvist's interest in the visual arts.
A talented athlete in his youth, Nykvist's first cinematic effort was to film himself taking a high jump, to improve his jumping technique. After a year at the Municipal School for Photographers in Stockholm, he entered the Swedish film industry at the age of 19.