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Book Review: Post Scriptum

Post Scriptum. Photographs by Christer Strömholm.
Published by Bokförlaget MAX STRÖM, 2012.
 
Post Scriptum
Reviewed by George Slade

Post Scriptum
Photographs by Christer Strömholm.
Bokförlaget MAX STRÖM, 2012. Hardbound. 404 pp., 330 duotone illustrations, 8-1/2x10-1/2".

"Pictures should leap from the camera like rabbits."

Must be an intriguing artist who writes a statement like this. Can you resist wanting immediately to see what has leapt, comme un lapin, from such a camera? And, with pictures breeding like rabbits these days, what sort of images would have the boundless and surprising energy this statement implies? What rare pictures distinguish themselves from the photo tsunami that floods our visual landscape?

Christer Strömholm was born in Stockholm in 1918 and died there in 2002. He lived much of his life in Sweden, though France became his adoptive second home. He was an influential teacher and founded a major school of photography in his hometown in 1962. He received a Hasselblad Award in 1997. Yet relatively few people outside of Scandinavia, Europe, and Japan would know his name. Until the last five years very little of his work has been exhibited or published in United States venues. Which is our loss.

Post Scriptum, by Christer Strömholm. Published by Bokförlaget MAX STRÖM, 2012.

(Strömholm had work in The Frozen Image, an exhibition of Scandinavian photography at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, in 1982. He was included in another group show of contemporary photography in Scandinavia in New York City in 2001. According to the substantial chronology, these were the only American exhibitions during his lifetime.)

There are many fruitful, enlightening associations viewers might make when his photographs leap into view. Arbus. Siskind. Hujar. DeCarava. Brassaï. Heath. Kertész. Ishimoto. Armstrong. Laughlin. Goldin. Meatyard. Van der Elsken. Model. Strömholm's work has moments of coincidence with all of these noted image-makers. Is there some reason we haven't known more about him?

Post Scriptum, by Christer Strömholm. Published by Bokförlaget MAX STRÖM, 2012.
Post Scriptum, by Christer Strömholm. Published by Bokförlaget MAX STRÖM, 2012.

This book should remedy the situation. Edited by his son and prepared by respected photography scholars Carole Naggar, Christian Caujolle, and biographer Johan Tell, this volume is full of the demimonde, the counter-culture, and the secret truths that make ordinary lives extraordinary when seen clearly and presented with sufficient expertise. It takes patient eloquence to see so much with such acuity. Strömholm was stuck, as are all photographers, with the superficial. But his photographs throb with an antic energy, something transformative just below the surface.

Post Scriptum, by Christer Strömholm. Published by Bokförlaget MAX STRÖM, 2012.

Like the pictures Strömholm idealized, this book comes alive in your hands. A fifty-year career unfolds in decidedly non-chronological fashion. There are themes he explored extensively over time, but the prevailing quality of his photographs is a sly wonder. As Johan Tell writes, Strömholm "was fascinated by the border between sweet and grotesque." As are so many of us.—GEORGE SLADE

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GEORGE SLADE, a longtime contributor to photo-eye, is a photography writer, curator, historian and consultant based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He can be found on-line at http://rephotographica-slade.blogspot.com/.

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