The work of Gerry Johansson (b. 1945, Sweden) is incredibly straight and pragmatic. Operating outside of the context of contemporary photography, he captures images that are both timeless and placeless.
For American Winter, Johansson travelled through some of the least documented states in the US during the winters of 2017 and 2018. Winter suits him well, with its deserted streets, diffuse light, and blankets of snow offering ideal conditions for his quiet photographs of rural emptiness.
At first sight these photographs might look random, but they are carefully composed, perfectly aligned, and deliberately devoid of life. Johansson seems to be as interested in the graphic qualities of the medium as in the documentary aspect. In small, square and grey images, Johansson explores lines, planes, and contrasts, while capturing the stagnation of progress in semi-deserted towns in the forgotten center of the United States. Although the location is provided with each image, the images and their names feel interchangeable.
In that sense, Johansson’s photographs are placeless and timeless. Although decades apart, his deadpan documentation of rural America is not dissimilar to that of the New Topographics. The group of photographers, brought together by an exhibition at George Eastman House in 1975, was particularly interested in man-altered landscapes. One of its members, Lewis Baltz (1945-2014, United States) captured anonymous architecture like parking spots, garages and concrete walls. Baltz and Johansson share a fascination with the anti-fascinating, the very mundane and interchangeable found everywhere but never found worthy of being photographed.