18 FEBRUARY, 2022—12 JUNE, 2022


A photo exhibition that challenges a taboo

In 2004, Åsa Kalmér, a Swedish director, screenwriter and actor, underwent surgery for breast cancer. She did not belong to a relapse group; but in 2016 a new tumour was found behind the old scar and two weeks later she underwent surgery again. This time the whole breast was removed. This is the background to the photo-exhibition SCARS.

...The idea for the project

…is that – via the image – I wanted to investigate what my body could now express. I thought that there must be some kind of beauty left in this body that I will live with for the rest of my life? If you are a man and have a scar, it could be a sign of bravado, or a violent victory of some kind. But I have also undergone a kind of battle. How far do gender stereotypes govern our way of looking at ourselves? I wanted to crawl under the layers; and dare to expose the fragile, and perhaps, offensive. Scars are not only unwanted marks, they are also signs of lived life,” says Åsa Kalmér.

The result is a series of images: full of cross-border sensuality, power and energy that will be shown at Fotografiska Stockholm February 18th – April 24th 2022.  

Both Åsa Kalmér and Jörgen Hjerdt work with shaping images via film, theatre and writing. Now they meet in a new forum: where Åsa uses her experience in directing and acting and, Jörgen, his experience in photography and storytelling.

It all began when Jörgen and I were in our studio on a hot summer day. For six months I – my body – had been treated with chemotherapy, radiation and medicine. Jörgen and I walked around bare-chested. It was different to be without a breast on one side of my chest. Almost so that I felt a little androgynous. I wore a wig because of chemotherapy. It was like a shell to crawl into. I was disguised. But who was I now in my new body? We began photographing, Åsa continues. 

How far do gender stereotypes govern our way of looking at ourselves?

Åsa Kalmér

Åsa's desire was allowed to rule

Jörgen Hjerdt says, “The pictures became a way for us to process what we had been through together. Åsa’s desire was allowed to rule. It was important not to portray Åsa’s body as a victim of cancer, but to see all that other stuff, the humour, the anger, the sadness, the sensuality. All the energy, and experience that is in the scarred body. It was also in some way about aestheticizing a taboo. It can be a way to break it.”



© Kalmer Hjerdt Ärr/Scars