Many of his photographs were taken in Paris, and anticipate the work of more contemporary photographers like Nan Goldin in that they are documents from Strömholm’s eclectic and vigorous life.
By Paul Loomis, ASX, January 2013
This volume compiles photographs from several extremely hard to find books by Christer Strömholm, a Swedish postwar photographer and winner of the Hasselblad prize who is famous for his images of everything from transexuals in Paris to children in Hiroshima. The pictures in this book include pages from Poste Restante and Les Amies de Place Blance, both pillars of postwar European photography and both worth hundreds of dollars now. When combined as they are here, Strömholm’s images are a compelling if dark portrait of a world rocked by catastrophe, confusion, and beauty.
Strömholm’s infinitely curious eye seeks detail and understanding above landscape or summary, and after leafing through a collection of his work this comprehensive (405 pages), its easy to see where his renown originates. His best images deal in darkness of some kind, personal, social or both. It is investigated, documented without any National Geographic voeyerism, and the resulting images are challenging and brave. Besides that, Strömholm finds gorgeous compositions whenever he presses the shutter. This is a photographer who never fled difficulty, and who stubbornly pursued a vision late into life.
Many of his photographs were taken in Paris, and anticipate the work of more contemporary photographers like Nan Goldin in that they are documents from Strömholm’s eclectic and vigorous life. His photographs of transexuals in Paris are especially reminiscent of Goldin, and they are some his best because of their obvious intimacy. The way people who know a photographer look at a camera is distinct, and those eyes are everywhere in Strömholm’s Paris pictures. The range of his subject’s lives that Strömholm captures – walking the street, kissing men, posing nude, changing, and smoking cigarettes – is expert too in the way Goldin’s work is expert, which is completely natural.
Carla & Zizou, Brasserie Graff, 1963
A woman is caught getting out of her big white car and seeing the photographer at the same time. She gives a guilty face.
Strömholm’s street photography is just as effortlessly successful and includes American scenes and Parisian scenes that glitter with the luck of a skillful eye roaming the active parts of vibrant cities. A woman is caught getting out of her big white car and seeing the photographer at the same time. She gives a guilty face. Another woman holds a dollar to her chest and looks towards the sky with her son, people with remarkable faces stare down at the camera, which is held at the waist, as they make their way down the sidewalk, and boys gun down bystanders with imaginary bullets.
More abstract images are also well represented in Post Scriptum, and prove Strömholm’s range and skill in a wide variety of photographic subsets. They are boldly black and white, and some look like forests of insects, others like excellent compositions that reveal divine forms within the everyday. They match the quality of the the other photographs, and as a collection Strömholm’s images are a spectacular journey into the world of a genius.
Post Scriptum is an excellent retrospective. It includes several illuminating essays and a biographical text with pictures.
Photographs by Christer Strömholm.
Bokförlaget MAX STRÖM, 2012. Cat# ZF225 ISBN-13: 978-9171262493
ASX CHANNEL: CHRISTER STROMHOLM
(All rights reserved. Text @ Paul Loomis, Images @ Bokförlaget MAX STRÖM)