I know what you’re all thinking: 2 posts in as many days. Is she on drugs?!
No, no she’s not. She’s just been busy with stuff. Christmas, you know, and other absorbing things like procrastination.
So, Stockholm, again, earlier this month.
When Flemming and I left after our few days there in April, we both agreed that more time would have to be spent in this beautiful city. Turns out, he’s almost as taken with it as I am… I say “almost” because he doesn’t read fantasy and therefore doesn’t walk around looking for dragons and other imaginary creatures in likely spaces. That kind of thing just makes any experience better, if you ask me.
But I digress.
Meant to do a few more touristy things this time, like finally visit the Vasa Museum, since we were in town for a full week. But the weather was spectacular, and with days being four hours long, it was too good to waste indoors. Four hours might be an exaggeration for effect, but seriously, blue hour began at 2.30pm. So no Vasa Museum (I’ll try again next time Thomas!), but there was more walking around, enjoying the novel feeling of being intermittently frozen and having warm cafes patronized by dogs (and their owners), to thaw out in.
I didn’t start out intending to make black and white pictures. But I was losing much of my mental frame, agog as I was with the warm tones of the city, and all the wonderful things winter light does to them. Then a day at Fotografiska – mandatory visit in Stockholm – set my head back where it needed to be. There’s a wonderful exhibition on until 17 Feb 2019 called STHLM Forever, a photographic celebration of Stockholm over the span of a century by a host of photographers.
Spectacular photographs in the exhibition, but the ones that caught me were black and white ones from the olden days a.k.a. earlier half of the 20th century. I see in colour and most of the time, colour is what I make photographs around. But it’s black and white photos that I enjoy looking at, and want very badly to make, although most of the time, the effort ends in abject failure. It’s a little easier at more extreme latitudes though, especially in the darker seasons. Light falls at a kinder angles on things, allowing for a greater breadth of shadow to explore. No need to addle that with colour. Shades of grey are plenty interesting on their own.
Thus reminded of the black and white journey I started sometime back, my whole head relaxed. It feels right to shoot ordinary scenes in black and white. They remain, after all this time, what I feel compelled to make pictures of. Ordinary things, ordinary people, ordinary times from an ordinary perspective. Remove colour to focus the attention on something other than when, and see what we find.
Most of the time, all of this wandering around making random pictures of random scenes feels completely pointless. But I’ve given up thinking too much about it. Get like Nike and just do it. I’m a photographer. This is what it’s about. And it’s an irresistible way to look at a new place. Especially when the settings are as beautiful as they are in the Nordics. Even if, in the case of Stockholm, there is a gargantuan redevelopment project going on. It doesn’t take away the city’s grace.
That point was brought home by the STHLM Forever exhibition. I was especially taken by the photographs of Lennart Nilsson. He’s a pioneering medical photographer and possibly Sweden’s most famous photographer, although I only found out about him through this exhibition. The photograph that graces the cover of his book, Stockholm, is reproduced at wall size at Fotografiska. The caption next to the photo mentioned that save the imposing bulk of Stadhuset (Stockholm City Hall), which was built in the 1920s, it could have been a photograph made a hundred years earlier.
That, for me, is the magic in it.
(Also now I really want Lennart Nilsson’s Stockholm book. I really need to stop buying books, seeing how I don’t have a place to keep any of them.)
There are colour pictures of course. There will always be those, for days where it’s all about color.
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