24 AUGUST — 25 OKTOBER, 2012
Ten years after Christer Strömholm’s death, Fotografiska presents the exhibition CHR. The exhibition is a comprehensive retrospective of Christer Strömholm’s oeuvre consisting of over 150 photographs, including his classic images as well as works that have never been exhibited before, in addition to archival materials, objects, films, and sound recordings.
great integrity and intensity
“For me, working with the photographic image is a way of life. When I think back and look carefully at my pictures, they are all, in their special way, nothing but self-portraits, a part of my life.” – Christer Strömholm 1983
CHR. features a selection of his classic photographs from 1950s Paris, Spain, Japan, and the U.S., and even images of his friends from Place Blanche. Christer Strömholm worked almost exclusively with black and white photography and death, life, intimate moments, and friends were reoccurring themes in his work. Strömholm photographed as he lived: with great integrity and intensity.
One Way to Live Christer Strömholm’s (1918-2002) importance to Swedish photography is undeniable, and his imagery is entirely his own. CHR. was Strömholm’s signature. It was his trademark throughout his life. According to Strömholm, photography was not meant to document reality. The photographer must begin with the self, because the image is, in fact, in the mind of the photographer and not in front of the camera. Strömholm was always more interested in the image rather than technique.
Fifty years have passed since Strömholm studied at Fotoskolan in 1962 with Tor Ivan Odulf. The school was groundbreaking and the methods were atypical. Christer Strömholm coined the terms “existing light” and “personal responsibility” and his theories changed both the perspective and approach within Swedish photography. When school closed in 1974, over 1200 students completed the education, many of whom are now counted among Scandinavia’s foremost photographers.
Pictures Without Borders
Christer Strömholm began to study painting in the 1940’s with Isaac Grünewald and Otte Sköld. He was a volunteer during the Finnish Winter War and participated in the Norwegian resistance movement. After the war, Strömholm made his way to Paris, and it was there that he discovered that photography was the form of expression he sought. It was later in Paris that he became acquainted with the transsexuals around Place Blanche. Strömholm’s series, Your Friends at the Place Blanche (1959-1968) is considered his most groundbreaking. Night birds, as the transsexuals were called, became Strömholm’s close friends. The photographs are a personal depiction of their lives, and the images shed light on their right to their own life and identity. Your Friends at the Place Blanche was first published in 1983 by ETC publishers and quickly became a collector’s item. A new edition of the book Les Amies de Place Blanche was released last November.
Throughout his life Strömholm traveled and, like a vagabond, he never stayed in one place for very long. During the 1960s, Strömholm traveled extensively in France, but also in Spain, Japan, and the U.S. The exhibition presents image sequences from these travels inspired by other contemporary “street-photographers”, for it was “street life” that he photographed. Several pictures from this period are more spontaneous in their expression. Here Strömholm depicted everyday life rather than focus on a specific topic.
In the latter part of Strömholm’s oeuvre, his images become more like collages, in which he assembled found objects and worked with Polaroid film. The images become more abstract, like still life. Recurrent to Strömholm’s entire oeuvre is his use of various themes and working titles. His images were sorted into groups such as Death Pictures (1954-1964), Private Photos (1974-1982), Signs and Tracks (1982-1993) and Calvary (1993-1996).
Strömholm’s first show was entitled In Memory of Myself at NK in Stockholm, 1965. In 1966 Strömholm exhibited Death Pictures; twelve years would pass before he would exhibit again in 1978 at the gallery Camera Obscura with the series Private Photos. In the end of the 1960s Strömholm published the book Poste Restante (1967); the title reflecting his life as a wanderer. This rare book is highly sought after by collectors, and is considered to be one of the Strömholm’s most important publications.
Strömholm’s breakthrough came in 1986 with a comprehensive exhibition at Moderna Museet entitled 9 Seconds of My Life, which was followed by a number of exhibitions around the world. In 1993 Strömholm was appointed professor of photography, and, in 1997, Strömholm was presented with the Hasselblad Award. Just before Strömholm’s death on January 11, 2002 the French newspaper Le Monde published an extensive article about his life’s work. In the article he is proclaimed “Le Grand Suedois”, or “The Great Swede”. It was in this same year that Strömholm’s photographs were exhibited for the first time in New York at ICP, the prestigious International Center of Photography.
Strömholm is currently represented in several museums around the world such as MoMA, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and ICP in New York as well as the Pompidou Centre in Paris.
This exhibition is produced by Fotografiska in collaboration with Joakim and Jakob Strömholm.
Curator: Maria Patomella
In connection to the exhibition Max Ström will publish a comprehensive book entitled PS (PostScriptum), on Christer Strömholm’s entire oeuvre.