Watching through the window, the rain falling outside, this brings me back in time, a few years ago, thinking about a haunting book. It has been a few months since I wanted to talk about it : On borrowed time, by Henrik Malmström.
The book was printed in 2010, in 500 copies, and contains photographs made from November 2007 to April 2008.
Well, I should say that the book is beautiful, but it won’t give it justice. In 1999, Henrik’s older sister was diagnosed a cancer. She fought for years and what we discover in this book is her final fight, when she went back to hospital for the last few months.
In his foreword, Jörn Donner explains perfectly what is so important with this book. In fact, most of us are not afraid of death, but we are afraid of the painful period that can accompany each of us on the way to the passing away.
What Henrik documents here, is his relationship to his sister, but also with her forthcoming death. That was probably the way he found to stay beside her, and maybe to make what is happening acceptable and bearable. Fully in black and white, we come on board with Henrik for his journey from greyness to the night.
The book alternates pictures of Maija (Henrik’s sister) with outside views of the hospital as metaphors of a lost freedom, and details on which we focus during visits like if we did not want to face the death coming, looking elsewhere to avoid the pain. Some blurry pictures reflect our distress, the spirit can’t stand anymore the sadness and we’re loosing our mind. There is such a kind of photograph on the cover in which we can see an angel flying or maybe the soul living the body !
The two last photographs are absolutely stunning, we discover a train in the night which emphasizes the death coming to take away the body. The modernization of the society has changed the death from the well known “The Seventh Seal” to a train driver.
The second and last one shows Maija’s legs beside the drip system rolls, slightly out of focus, like a reminiscent image of the memory. This is how Maija will remain in everyone’s mind in the family. On the opposite of this picture, Maija’s last words, about her expectations that have been stolen. Is it fair to not even reach thirty ? Who had the right to do that ? Unfortunately for her, but also for all of us the question will remain unanswered.
Henrik Malmström is Finnish, but his name is Swedish (there is a wide Swedish community in the West part of Finland) so I can’t avoid thinking to this beautiful song by John Holm : Ett enskilt rum på Sabbatsberg, about a young person sitting beside another one dying to accompany her during her last moments at Sabbastberg’s hospital (Stockholm).
Well, I could talk for hours, but that would not be worth a look at the book ! The book is self published with texts in English, Finnish and Swedish. The trade edition is now out of print, but you can still find copies of the limited edition on Henrik’s site :
All images copyright Henrik Malmström
I have started this blog earlier this year, because I just needed to share some thoughts about photography, and it mainly turned into photobooks reviews. This new post will be about those beautiful photobooks which caught my attention in 2013. This is not an exhaustive list, just some books that, each for a special reason, were very important to me in 2013.
Fourteen books and one special mention, in no particular order :
Fukushima samurai, by Noriko Takasugi, design by Noriko Takasugi, self published.
Published in December 2012, after the list of 2012, so I decided to add this book to this year. This is a stunning handmade book with Japanese binding about the aftermath of Fukushima. It is one of the most beautiful book i have seen for the last couple of years, you can read more about it here.
Here are the Young men, by Claire felicie, design by Sybren Kuiper, self published.
The anguish of a mother turned into a moving testimony on the damages of war. This is not an Embedded reportage, but it is finally a lot more efficient ! Facing the war by the changes of faces, reminds me about Avedon and what was called geography of epiderm. Read more here.
Scoffing pig, by Nozomi Iijima, self published .
A Young woman raised in a farm with her parents. Is there any reason to avoid a wonderful subject so close to her. This could be considered as modern vernacular photography, except that we don’t have to wait for years to discover her work. An emerging photographer who started to publish her handmade books, ultra limited édition, books/objects, and has also started to gain a wider audience with the publication of newsprint and zine. This little red book was her first self published handmade book, and the one by which I discovered her.
Control order house, by Edmund Clark, design by Ben Weaver, published by Here Press.
The excesses of our societies shown in a photobook. At first glance, this could be a repellent book. Many small pictures unsorted which also appeared to be imperfectly framed. Nothing happening except boredom. Well, this might well be what we can feel under house arrest. The deprivation of liberty, in the name of security. Probably more a political book than a photobook. Read more here.
Lothringen, by Pascal Anders, design by himself, self published.
Talking about politics, here is a book without pretension. A succession of pictures from a devastated area, in France, because of unemployment after the closing of steel factories. What is shown by the photos is outside of them. They just show the emptiness, the life is elsewhere… but is there still life somewhere ? Read more here.
L’amoureuse, by Anne de Gelas, published by Le caillou Bleu.
This is not what we can call an easy book. The subject… the mourning of an always too quickly disapeared, a husband and a father. The book is a diary, a collection of pieces which help to overcome the loneliness. There is an incredible generosity in this book which may become a catharsis for the author. A beautiful review, here, by Colin Pantal.
Swell, by Mateusz Sarello, design Ania Nalecka, published by Instytut Kultury Wizualnej
As I have already said here about this book, this is the story of a failure. The sea as a cure. Mateusz exposes himself and dissects his pain, then combines photography and a return to the sea, to overcome it. An incredibly well organised book to serve the narration. read more here.
Vanishing existence, by Kosuke Okahara, design by himself, published by Backyard project
Forgotten places and old leproseries in China, this is the subject of Kosuke’s book. The photographs are beautifuly printed, but what I like a lot with this book is its traditionnal Japanese binding and the aspect of the book reminds me Hokusai’s mangas. A very humble design which emphasizes the subject.
A beach, by Klara Källström and Thobias Fäldt, design by 1 :2 :3, published by B-B-B-Books
How can you build a future if you ignore the past ? This could be the pitch for the book. When I met Klara and Thobias at Offprint, it took a little bit more time for them to explain me the purpose of the book. But they really caught me with this beautiful leporello. When photographers work on Memory. One of my favorite topic. Read more here.
Away from home, by Kursat Bayhan, design by Frederic Lezmi, self published.
This book is the modern history of the Turkish society ! From the poverty in Anatolia to the disapointed hopes and dreams in Istanbul. I have been a few times in Istanbul and this book could really help me to understand a lot of situations that I saw. This strongly reminds me one of my favorite film maker : Nuri Bilge Ceylan, and more particularly his film Uzak.
Ezekiel 36:36, by Nick ballon, design by Studio Thomson, published by Lab Project.
As you can discover, the Holy Bible is not in my list, but I won’t completely avoid a reference to the Good Book with this book. This could be a commercial commission for a company… Except that the company is in complete disarray and very close to bankruptcy. From glory to decay, the rise and fall of capitalism ! A very simple book, which generates a kind of fascination.
Tractor boys, by Martin Bogren, published by Aman Iman and Dewi lewis.
What do teenagers like, all over the world : cars and girls. This is what martin Bogren tells us by sharing those photos. He entered the group and spent time with them, in the southern province of Sweden called Skåne. Between excitement and boredom, with the remanent image of tire traces on the floor.
Fear of fall, by Florian van Roekel, design by Sybren Kuiper, self published.
The new book by Florian has sold out in one day. In this book we discover the consolidation of Florian’s style in photography. Many close up pictures, a strong sense of narration, vivid colors… and my favorite final sequence with the blackbird, from domestication to wild life which is the metaphor of human life. The depiction of a housing estate, another one of my favorite topic !
Disko, by Andrew Misksys, design by Claudia Ott, self published.
A very touching portrait of the youth in Lithuania. Andrew made his photographs in former cultural houses from the USSR age which are reconverted in « modern » disko. Just to be clear, I really don’t think that the photographer is mocking the way of life of Young génération in Lithuania, I rather feel a strong empathy for the young fellows photographed. Also a few nice pictures at the end of the book, showing decayed traces of the past icons, like portraits of Lenin, and communists signs.
A special mention for a project that ended in 2013 and was started in 2009
The Sochi project, by Rob Hornstra and Arnold van Brueggen, design by Kummer & Herrman, self published and Aperture for « An atlas … »
From 2009 to 2013, Rob and Arnold have been investigating the Sochi area which will host the Winter Olympic Games in 2014, particularly the population displacements, harassment of minorities and every pressions draw by the official government to promote Sochi as « a perfect place ». This is one of the most beautiful documentary photo work for the last years !
All images copyright the photographers and the publishers.
Not technically completely in winter, but this time of the year is a perfect time to focus on two wonderful photographers, whose works deserved to be enlightened.
Kåre Kivijärvi is a Norwegian photographer born in 1938, in Hammerfest, the world northernmost town, and Sune Jonsson was born, in 1930, in Nyåker in the northern part of Sweden named Västerbotten. They are photographers of the same generation, but they had different influences.
Sune Jonsson, is a self-educated social concerned photographer who has learnt ethnology and literature in Uppsala, he is also a writer. His work often refers to August Sander and Walker Evans, especially because his work mainly focus on the rural life and its people. Like Evans and Sander, he tried to observe all aspects of the traditionnal rural life.
His most famous work was « Byn med det blå huset » (the village with the blue house) published in 1959 (listed in Parr Badger Vol I).
In this book, we discover the simple everyday life of inhabitants of a village in his native county of Västerbotten and we feel a strong empathy for every human being he met. He drives us around the village and, with him, we meet the neighbours like « Farbror Viktor », « Hedvig Gunnarsson » or « Natan ». The photographs are organised by topics and this village becomes a symbol of every village in the north of Sweden.
He made a few more books, mainly related to the topic of rural life and farmers, except one which is about a Swedish mission in Congo. I would fairly recommend « Minnesbok över den Svenske bonden » which is a kind of encyclopedia about farming in Sweden (and the book can be found for an affordable price which is not the case of « Byn med… »). We discover farmers working outside, people living at home, animals… organised, once again by topics. The photos come with an essay and many fact sheets. This book, published in 1971 by LTs Verlag, is very interesting in being an inventory of agriculture in Sweden in the late 60’s and probably my favorite one amongst the books I know (of course I don’t know every books made by Sune Jonsson).
The story of Kåre Kivijärvi is completely different. He started studying photography with Otto Steinert in Germany, and was mainly working as a journalist. For that reason, he got many assignments all over the world (Spain, USSR, India, Nepal…). If Sune Jonsson gained notoriety with the Parr Badger reference, Kåre Kivijärvi did not get that chance and remained unknown. I discovered his work when I went to Hammerfest in spring, and, so far, I only know two books about his work. The work of Kåre Kivijärvi is organised in series when Sune Jonsson had a lifetime project.
What I like the most in his work is when he focused on the life in Norway, particularly in the area where he is from. We discover some very harsh landscapes. Photos are printed with a high contrast, mainly black and white which emphasizes the extreme climate and life conditions; during winter, the nature turns to black and white. In the composition of the images, we find the reminiscences of Otto Steinert’s influence. Each photograph has a strong organisation and I am still very surprised that some of his pictures had not become more iconic. For a Findus assignment, he spent a lot of time with fishermen, going out for some fish campaigns in the artic sea, and we discover the life on board, with the expectations, joys and breaks of men.
Here below is a self portrait.
Another part of his work which really interest me is his photographs of the Leastadian community (the closer reference I could find to explain this religion is the film by Lars Von trier: Breaking the waves). He was raised in a Laestadian family and he perfectly knows the organisation of the community, this could be one of the reason why he got access to their most intimate meetings and was so easily accepted. In this series, we discover a social photographer who is trying to understand the organisation of our society, and what defines the relationship between people.
Well, there would be much more to say about his work which can, unfortunately, only be seen in Hammerfest Gallery Verk which was officially granted to represent the photographer.
Some useful links, unfortunately in Swedish and Norwegian:
And a poem, as a tribute to Kivijärvi, by John Burnside, Scothish writer : http://www.scottisharts.org.uk/1/artsinscotland/literature/features/archive/poemseptember2004.aspx
All ilmages copyright Sune Jonsson, Kåre Kivijärvi and the publishers. Can be removed on request.