Etikettarkiv: photography

Interview: Harri Pälviranta on ”Wall Tourist”

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Harri Pälviranta
Wall Tourist
Texts: Pälviranta,
Anna-Kaisa Rastenberger,
Alexandra Athanasiadou
Kult Books

The years 2015 and 2016 were years of increased flows of migrants from countries such as Afghanistan, Irak and Syria to the EU. The development was contradictory – on the one hand ”Angela Merkel” opened Germanys borders to something like one million syrians fleeing the war, on the other hand efforts intensified to complete ‘Festung Europa’. And later, Donald Trump, pledged to build a ”beautiful” wall along the southern border of USA. The phenonomen was global though. Walls and fences along borders became at least a little bit less taboo, more visible and normalized.
Between 2016 and 2021 the Finnish art photographer Harri Pälviranta travelled to five continents and 12 different countries to photograph walls and fences from USA and Israel to Slovenia and Spain. The project and book, Wall Tourist (Kult Books) is spectacular, eerie and unheimlich. There are no migrants in the images, but Pälviranta has stood in front of the camera taking photos of himself in front of walls and fences.
I had the privilige to ask Pälviranta a few questions about his work. Visit Kult Books home page, a small but inventive publisher of beautiful photo books. And visit Pälvirantas home page.

– You have done work before on different aspects of violence, for exempel on gun violence in Finland and abroad and the representation of violence in the media. How does Wall Tourist connect to, or disconnect from, your previous work?

 – Well, it is true that several of my previous projects have touched different aspects of violence, be it interpersonal or systemic, institutional, or subjective. This body of work surely has its reasoning in systemic and institutional violence, yet the work approaches border walls and fences also from several other angles. For instance, I connect to the tradition of landscape photography, self-portraiture and, of course, to heroic masculine traveling endeavours. I believe I approach this from a slightly humorous and critical angle. Perhaps it is this little inbuilt irony that separates this work from the previous ones.

– When you move from behind the camera to stand in front of it and the walls and fences, it’s a performance of sorts. How did you get the idea to this move, what is it’s significance? Is it somehow akin to Bertold Brecht’s Verfremdungseffekt?

– Apart from my heavy and serious violence works, for a very long time I have also done self-portrait series. They are more inward looking and ‘subjective’, sometimes even joyful. I keep on doing these partly because they are much about shame, and play, at least the way I see them. I am very much aware of the criticism towards documentary practices, particularly to the critique posed towards the ‘traveling man’ syndrome, and this performative aspect is one response to that.

I believe touching shame publicly corrodes heroic masculine authorship, with this I mean by positioning myself in uncomfortable roles, I dismantle the idea of masculine bravado that is very much still here. I acknowledge being privileged, being white middle-class man from a wealthy North, and with this move I wanted to visualise this position, to incorporate it in the series. To make the author visible. Following these thoughts, I scripted this character, my alter ego, to perform as the protagonist.

While making this work, I haven’t particularly thought of Brecht’s Verfremdungseffect, but surely the way I have worked connect to this. The fact that this same man appears in the photos repeatedly, distorts the view, and makes the theatre apparent. The theatre metaphor is interesting and valid also because Dark Tourism practice is sometimes seen being some sort of environmental theatre, that there are people traveling to these distant locations because of their individual aspirations but simultaneously there are groups following each other, buses arriving one after another, all following predesigned choreographies. As a social practice, it doesn’t differ much from institutional theatre art.

– The book contains three texts that contribute quite a bit to the reader experience. You adhere to the concept and phenomenon dark tourism, which tend to evoke a whole array of strong and contradictory emotions. Could you please say something about your work and dark tourism?

 – Dark Tourism is a broad field of investigation connected to the different commodified traveling opportunities that provide a possibility to travel to destinations of conflicts, atrocities, death, and disasters globally. There is an unbelievably big number of people whose travels are, at least partly, motivated by this type of interest.

 – I surely have an interest towards uncomfortable, flipsides, and dark, and I feel comfortably uncomfortable while doing these travels. I am not celebratedly warm-hearted and empathic, and I am not that good in distant empathy, so for me to ‘feel and understand’ something hideous and horrid, I must expose myself to it. I somehow ‘understand’ with and through bodily experiences. We can all read about everything possible but personally I am not able to integrally understand something well without being somehow present in that issue or event.

– This is a very difficult topic to talk about because one is very easily stigmatised being a thrill-seeker, or something. It is not about that. It is about touching something with your body and senses, and through this presence there arises a possibility to ‘understand’. When it comes to border walls and fences, even though I see them being manifestations of separation and cruelty, I surely do understand their existence. When one meets people at the borders and talk to them, their reasonings are often very concise and acceptable, even though I would think the opposite.

– You asked about the three texts in the book. Personally, I do not like to read texts that somehow art historically celebrate the series, and I do not want anybody to tell me how good this body of work is. That is up to the viewer-reader to decide. So, I wanted to include something that I call extensions, texts that are well grounded approaches to my work, without being the celebrations of it. Separate thought exercises that offer alternative angles. I think the texts are great, because they also pose criticism towards my work. This is important because the body of work is not totally resolved.

– What do you feel now when you look through your images? What are some of your most vivid memories?

– I am proud of the book; I think as an object it reflects well my intentions but also my experiences. The gray outlook follows the grayness of the whole thing: that the walls and fences are somehow meaningless but simultaneously they make enormous affects on some individuals.

I would say my most vivid memories are connected to this ambivalence. I am witnessing something extremely uncomfortable but at the same time everything around me is so beautiful! There are so many weird singular incidents that I came across but here is one fundamental. The first photograph for the series was done in the border between Hungary and Serbia. Just when I had set up my 4 x 5″ field camera and made the first photo, the border patrol arrived, a minute later came the military, and following them, the police. Up in the sky, was a drone observing us. A discussion and several background checks followed, taking about an hour, after which I got a permission to continue. This was in 2016. After that Hungary has built a double fence to their border with Serbia. Also, the legislation has changed so that now I would not be able to do the photography any longer. This is very descriptive to the project. Intensities tend to grow, without any real reasons behind. Many instances are putting a lot of effort on this, but the core issues are not dealt with. It is this weird human activity to do lot of tinkering, because of tinkering.

– What are some of your favorite contemporary photographers? Please say something brief about why you like them.

 – Oh dear! I am bad at naming my influences. I have this eclectic approach to contemporary art; I am not terribly medium oriented, yet I love lens-based works but not that much of classical photography. And simultaneously, my bookshelves are full of photo books!

I have cried when visiting a Marlene Dumas exhibition, the same happened when seeing Caravaggio paintings; most recently seeing the painting Judith Beheading Holofernes just rocked my groundings. Talking about lens-based artists, going through a very recent book by Miro Kuzmanović was a tremendously moving experience. It is about the Balkan Wars. Richard Billingham’s Ray’s a Laugh is my long-time favorite. And then there is a book titled 100 Suns, put together by Michael Light. It shows one hundred nuclear explosions. So beautiful and horrific.

– I think that is the core: I am sucked in when there is a huge ambivalence and conflict built inside the piece of art. I do not know what to think and how to handle my feelings!

Ola Wihlke

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Photo: ”Chroma” and ”Anti-Chroma” by Ben Thomas

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Ben Thomas is a Melbourne-based photographer. At a first glance, some of the colorful images in his Chroma series look like vintage postcards, others have a painterly quality and resemble abstract art, but they are photographs taken in Hong Kong, Shanghai, London, Paris, among other cities. Thomas has sought out urban areas that are high in color and with reduced blacks. Then he has ”stripped out as much of the darker detail in the images as possible, to allow the vibrant color to control the image,” he has explained.

Thomas has used techniques to alter the look of photographs before. In his previous series Anti-Chroma he has utilized techniques to reduce the color and to darkening the blacks. The result in both cases is strikingly beautiful photos.

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Your work has centered around cities and urban spaces – what is it about them that you find most fascinating?

I think that every city has its own unique feel, each is almost like a fingerprint, no two are the same. I find it fascinating that people sometimes miss a lot of the detail and design that surrounds them. I have therefore used a number of techniques to help highlight what’s unique about the places we live in.

Can you tell us a little bit about the aesthetics of and ideas behind Chroma / Anti-Chroma and about how they are interrelated?

My aim with Chroma is to use color as a method to deconstruct a scene, I am chasing an aesthetic thats both hyper-real and almost illustrative in its feel. Anti-Chroma is continuing the illustrative and flat aesthetic while removing most of its color, letting the light and shade determine the overall appearance.

Visit Ben Thomas homepage. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter.

Ola Wihlke

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Under Artiklar, Bokomslag bilder och foto, Recensioner

Foto: ”White Africans. A Journey To The Homeland” av Katharine Cooper

Declan with Polly the parrot-Ledbury Farm-Zimbabwe

Declan with Polly the Parrot : Ledbury Farm, Mazowe, Zimbabwe 2013 © Katharine Cooper

Cheryldean Hestia Marisan & Clara- Prins Albert park SA 2013

Cheryldean, Hestia, Marisan & Clara in the Park at Prins Albert, South Africa 2013 © Katharine Cooper

Belinda Bakeberg & family-Johannesburg 2013

Belinda Bakeberg & Family: Apple Park, South Africa 2013 © Katharine Cooper

Stacy & the little stranger-Harare-Zimbabwe 2013

Stacy and the Little Stranger: Harare, Zimbabwe 2013 © Katharine Cooper

Jean Charl Greef-surfer-Koffiebaai-SA 2013

Jean Charl Greef, Artist & Surfer: Koffiebaai, South Africa 2013 © Katharine Cooper

alexia & dino

Alexia & Dino, brother and sister: Sandton – Johannesburg, South Africa 2013 © Katharine Cooper

Rugby team at coronation park

Coronation Park Rugby Team: Krugersdorp, South Africa 2013 © Katharine Cooper

Pieter Pretorius & his friends-Groenfontein-SA 2013

Pieter Pretorious & Friends Playing Rugby: Groenfontein, South Africa 2013 © Katharine Cooper

Hein van Jaarsveldt & Dylan-Krugersdorp-SA

Hein van Jaarsveld (double-leg amputee) & his Stepson, Dylan:
Krugersdorp, South Africa 2013 © Katharine Cooper

zane & vanessa-koffiebaai-south africa 2013

Zane and Vanessa, Childhood Friends: Koffiebaai, South Africa 2013 © Katharine Cooper

Nina with her children and their grandfather-Grahamstown-SA 2013

Nina, Mayrie & Max with Oupa Lindsay: Grahamstown, South Africa 2013 © Katharine Cooper

Danielle & Tiger by the Pool-Harare-Zimbabwe 2004

Danielle & Tiger by the Pool: Harare, Zimbabwe 2004 © Katharine Cooper

kc ak & nr 022-6

Katharine Cooper, Anna Karien & Nina reunited after 22 years at Beadle
Street House: Grahamstown, South Africa 2013 © Katharine Cooper

In 2012 and 2013 the young South African photographer Katharine Cooper, who now lives in Arles, travelled back to her homeland South Africa and Zimbabwe to photograph women, men and children of the white minority, people whose lives she might have shared. Cooper gave us the opportunity to choose and display photos from the resulting series, ”White Africans. A Journey To The Homeland.” She was also kind enough to answer a couple of questions.

I have read several texts about ”White Africans”. Most are very similar. Could you please tell us a little bit about it in your own words, its a very personal project. Please tell us how you went about it, and about the taboos you wanted to challenge.

– I suppose it was a very personal thing. It all begins with the white diaspora leaving South Africa and Zimbabwe for Europe, America, Australia, because of increasing hostility towards them, owing to the colour of their skin.  They were given no choice but to leave, in order to make safe lives for themselves and their children, in communities where they did not feel like a threatened minority, in countries where they had rights and where the future seemed surer than in their country of origin.

– But it was heartbreaking for all of us to leave Africa. We lived our new lives with a constant nostalgia and longing. Some might call it permanent homesickness. I and friends of mine deal with these feelings on an almost daily basis. We have built homes for ourselves in the first world, but our hearts yearn for Africa. We are white, but we are not like the Europeans, Americans or Australians. We have an entirely different culture, vocabulary, and in the case of the Afrikaans people, a whole new language, which are peculiar to us.

– We are White Africans, afraid to proclaim it too loud, because of all the guilt that colonialism and apartheid make us bear. ”I wanted to confront this and proclaim verly clearly that certain white people in Africa have as much right to call themselves ‘African’ as as the people who settled in the Americas have the right to call themselves ‘American’. And I count myself amongst them.

You get the sense that the persons in the series, a few of them, are vulnerable and living under difficult conditions. You have taken their photographs with great sensitivity. But there is a tension in a several of the photos, there are more than a hundred, and quite a few of the persons look reserved. How did you approach the persons you wanted to take pictures of? Have they seen the photos?

– There is a freshness and innocence about these people that is lacking in Europeans. The expression is a result of the interaction between myself and the subject. I am such a reserved and shy person myself that it is in fact an ordeal I have to overcome every time I take a photograph of someone, to ask them if they would accept to pose for me. I am so afraid of exploiting or making people feel ill at ease, that it is an incredibly complex process for me to approach a stranger in the street and ask them to perform for my camera.

– Every time that someone accepts to look into my lens, it is an event. It is a meaningful encounter, full of gravity and mutual respect. Or at least, I hope so! Maybe they just think I am totally nuts! At any rate, I think this explains the expression on their faces : I do not want them to clown around, to smile, but rather to retain their full dignity by looking straight into the camera without smiling. I really do feel that the scowl is the best form of freedom of expression.

– As a general rule, I always take the name and email addresses of the people I photograph, in order to send them the images. Some people do not have email, so it is more difficult to show them. So, most of the people who are in these pictures have seen the end result and are pleased.

From seeing your photos, the ones on your homepage as well, I get the impression that you are both interested in the documentary tradition and the art and even fashion tradition of photography. Can you please tell us a little about photographers that have infuenced you?

– It is so interesting that you should mention that, because I have, in fact, been very much influenced by the old masters of fashion photography. I must say that Irving Penn is one of my gods, as well as Richard Avedon, Horst P Horst, Helmut Newton, Man Ray and Lee Miller, Edward Steichen. Of course there was also Diane Arbus in a more purely documentary style, as well as Jacques Henri Lartigue and Brassaï.

– Film has influenced me a lot too: Federico Fellini, Jean-Luc Godard, Luis Buñuel, Alfred Hitchcock and film noir as a genre. To me it is vital to bring out the glamour, the life force, the beauty in every subject. Straight documentary can never quite do this; one must mix in a drop of fantasy. Irving Penn photographed fashion like documentary: a bit of dirty carpet folded over a wooden crate on which he would place a woman in a couture dress; still life messed up with a dead fly; a celebrity squashed up in the corner in his studio.

You had a huge sucess with ”White Africans” in Paris. What are your plans for the near future?

– It is true that ”White Africans” was very well received, and I am so grateful to everybody – friends and strangers alike – for their sincere enthusiasm and real enjoyment of the pictures. I could not have dreamed of anything better or more rewarding. Now I am slowly getting my ideas together for the next project which will be happening in my homeland – South Africa – again.

– I cannot say too much because it is barely in embryonic form at the moment, but I am trying to get the ideas to flow onto paper (computer) so that I can ask the very lovely people in charge of the purse-strings for some funding. Without them, these projects would never happen, because, as we all know, artists are always broke!

If you like the images in this blog post, you should visit Katharine Coopers homepage.

Ola Wihlke

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Under Bokomslag bilder och foto, Intervjuer

Fotobok: ”The Day the Dam Collapses” av Hiroshi Watanabe


Hiroshi Watanabe
The Day the Dam Collapses
Daylight Books, 2014

Hiroshi Watanabes senaste fotobok inleds med en dikt, ”Blink”, av Kirsten Rian som gestaltar en känsla av att livet är skört, väldigt skört och värdefullt. Antingen har boken lånat sin titel från en formulering i dikten eller så är dikten skriven utifrån boktiteln:

”The day the dam collapses is every day, little deaths while flipping eggs, brushing hair out of the daughters eyes, waiting at the mechanics. Aquamarine, the sky might be aquamarine this day, opening up through clouds, pieces through the kitchen window. Sky looks like water, water likes sky, particularly if one squints. Or hangs upside down.”

All images © Hiroshi Watanabe


Watanabe, född i Sapporo, Hokkaido, 1951, men sedan 1975 bosatt och verksam i Los Angeles, är kanske mest känd för sitt svartvita foto men de kvadratiska fotona i The Day the Dam Collapses är både i färg och fotade digitalt. Fotona ingår i en serie som han påbörjade för drygt fem år sedan när han fick barn, några foton föreställer också barn, andra avbildar hav, blommor, träd och insekter. Fotona handlar på olika sätt om livet, tiden, förgängelse och döden.


Fotona har karaktär av snapshots och speglar en vilja att fånga de här olika aspekterna av livet. Sammantaget ger fotona ett kontemplativt och filosofiskt och samtidigt dokumentärt intryck. Ofta verkar det som om Watanabe har zoomat in något som han tycker har en symbolisk eller metaforisk betydelse. Fyra skalbaggar som äter en mask påminner om att vi själva är bundna till den biologiska världen.


I en avslutande text, som har samma titel som boken, skriver Watanabe om hur vi alla på sätt och vis är som karaktärerna i en katastroffilm. Vi är ovetande om vad för slags katastrof som kommer att drabba oss; vi vet att vi kommer att drabbas av en katastrof, att vi eller våra anhöriga kommer att dö eller blir sjuka, men vi lever som om katastrofer bara vore något som drabbar andra.


Watanabe skriver väldigt fint om vardagsfilosofiska frågor, framförallt om meningen med livet. Han skriver att han har nått ett stadium där han inte längre besväras av att inte tro att livet har någon mening. Min gissning är att det delvis beror på att han blivit far igen och att han älskar sin familj. Min gissning är att det beror på att han har ett kreativt yrke, att han på sätt och vis hela tiden, genom sitt fotografi, skapar mening, kanske inte meningen, men i alla fall mening.


Jag har läst en annan recension av The Day the Dam Collapses som är väldigt uppskattande, men har en invändning: ”My one criticism of Watanabe is that he can sometimes be overly sentimental” Jag hajade verkligen till när jag läste det, för jag tycker att det är en av de stora poängerna med boken.

Jag är inte heller någon anhängare av sentimentalt fotografi, men jag tycker att det finns olika sorter och att sentimentalitet kanske rentav generellt sett är underskattat. Jag tycker snarare att Watanabe är modig – han sänker verkligen garden om man ser till vad som förväntas av fotoböcker idag – som bejakar ett visst mått av sentimentalitet både i text och bild. Jag tycker att The Day the Dam Collapses är väldigt vacker, djupt rörande och nära nog befriande. Dessutom en utsökt välgjord bok.

Ola Wihlke

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Under Bokomslag bilder och foto, Recensioner

En av årets bästa fotoböcker: ”Bronx Boys” av Steven Shames

Outside the Dream: Child Poverty in America book || Bronx Boys - University of Texas Press, 2014

13-­‐year-­‐old  Rafael  jumps  from  one  building  to  the  next,  eight  stories   up.  1977

Bronx Boys book - University of Texas Press, 2014

Man blows smoke rings next to elementary school age kid in pool hall.  1980

Bronx Boys book - University of Texas Press, 2014

Early in the morning, a 10-­‐year-­‐old boy sleeps on the fire escape, where he slept all night. 1989 or 1991

Bronx Boys book - University of Texas Press, 2014

Boy gives photographer the finger. 1982

Bronx Boys book - University of Texas Press, 2014

Teenage boy with M-16. 1985

The Bronx: 30 Year Documentation 1977-2000

Boys in the hallway outside a party. 1992 – 99

Bronx Boys book - University of Texas Press, 2014

Teenage boys jump into a public swimming pool at night. They climbed over the fence. 1984

Bronx Boys book - University of Texas Press, 2014

Young man with toy gun. His son is at left. Two teens kiss. 1985





Vi är oerhört tacksamma över att ha fått publicera de här bilderna ur Bronx Boys (University of Texas Press), som vi räknar in bland de allra främsta fotoböckerna 2014. Det är en oerhört drabbande bok, med foton som är omöjliga att värja sig emot.

Vi vill tacka Lena Moses-Schmitt på University of Texas Press, vi vill tacka Steven Shames och vi vill tacka hans pr-agent Andrea Smith, som generöst lät oss publicera fyra foton utöver dem som fanns i pressmaterialet. Tusen tack!


Alla foton © Steven Shames

Och som om inte det vore nog så har vi fått tillstånd att publicera Steven Shames korta och kärnfulla förord. Han är en samhällsengagerad och mycket spännande fotograf och förordet är en perfekt introduktion till Bronx Boys:

”The Bronx has a terrible beauty, stark and harsh, like the desert. At first glance you imagine nothing can survive. Then you notice life going on all around. People adapt, survive, and even prosper in this urban moonscape of quick pleasures and false hopes.

In the 1700s Thomas Hobbes described life in a state of nature as ‘continual fear and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.’ Life is still that way in the Bronx.

I took my first photos in the Bronx, at the request of John Durniak, for Look magazine in 1977. Look died while I was on assignment. I continued for two decades, sometimes staying on the block for weeks at a time, sometimes visiting only once or twice a year.

These are pictures of friends, people whom I met as children and who became my family, as well as people who stepped in front of my camera once and afterward disappeared forever. I watched my friends grow up, fall in love, have children of their own. The boys in the original ‘crews’ are now in their forties—their children are becoming adults. A few, including my two godsons, have made it. Many others are dead or in jail.

Often I am terrified of the Bronx. Other times it feels like home. My images reflect the feral vitality and hope of these young men. The interplay between good and evil, violence and love, chaos and family, is the theme, but this is not documentation. There is no story line. There is only a feeling.”

Steven Shames

Utöver det rika fotomaterialet och Shames förord, så innehåller Bronx Boys också två andra mycket läsvärda texter, ett kort efterord av José ”Poncho” Muñoz och en längre självbiografisk essä av Martin Dones. Osminkat berättar han om sin barn- och ungdom, ofta mycket tuffa villkor, och om hur Shames sakta men säkert blev en naturlig del i hans och kompisarnas vardag.

Du kan köpa boken direkt från University of Texas Press, pris $33.50, där hittar du dessutom mer material om den. Och glöm inte att hiphoppen föddes i Bronx.

Ola Wihlke

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Under Artiklar, Bokomslag bilder och foto

Foto: Urban Landscapes (1994-2010) av Vera Lutter









Ett camera obscura är ett ljustätt rum med ett litet hål i väggen som fungerar som objektiv. Enligt de flesta skildringarna utvecklades de första under 12- och 1300-talet. Under historiens lopp har de skiftat i storlek, men Vera Lutter, född i Kaiserslauten 1960, har både återupplivat traditionen och utvecklat den. Hon använder en väldigt stor camera obscura. Den kan vara stor som en fraktcontainer, och ibland är den just en container.

Vera Lutter skiljer sig också från föregångarna genom att slutprodukten är stora bilder, ibland är de i en väggs storlek. Exponeringen sker under flera timmar, ibland betydligt längre. Resultatet är inte fotorealistiska avbildningar, utan snarare en slags spök- eller drömlik realism. Det är lätt att förstå att de storslagna och sublima bilderna har gjort succé världen över. De talar ett universellt, mytologiskt språk.

Lutter, baserad i New York, är särskilt intresserad av storstäder, fabriker och andra monument över industrialismens storhetstid. Att hon började som skulptör är inte särskilt förvånande med tanke på de vackra former hon avlockar arkitekturen. Samtidigt som bilderna är vagt kusliga har de något skört eller flyktigt över sig, det är som om de uppmanar oss att se och minnas.

För mer information om bildserien, besök Vera Lutters hemsida. I bokhandeln finns hennes böcker Egypt och monografin Vera Lutter. Vi är mycket tacksamma över att få visa några av bilderna i Urban Landscapes.

Ola Wihlke

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Under Bokomslag bilder och foto