15 December, 2015

Beautiful and boring at Fotografiska

Two new exhibitions at the Stockholm’s main photography centre. Fotografiska, occupying a beautiful industrial building that used to be the customs, runs four major exhibitions and around 20 minor shows a year.

Photo: Max Plunger, Fotografiska

Photo: Max Plunger, Fotografiska

Normally you can see from three to five different shows at a time and the selection of photographers varies from the international stars to some peculiar, but no less interesting local artists. It’s not only about photography – the centre shows films, presents installations with video elements and even combines photography with sound.

The gallery claims to attract around half a million visitors per year and they say that it’s a successful commercial, privately-owned enterprise. Well, whether you like it or not, it’s a business for some, while for us it’s a good opportunity to see very well-produced shows.

Last week I went to see two new exhibitions that I would like to recommend you – Guy Bourdin’s Avante-Garde and Pieter ten Hoppen’s Hungry Horse. And as I might have already bored you with this general talk, I thought I could sum up the reasons why you should see them in just five paragraphs.

Photo: Guy Bourdon, Vogue (1977), Paris. Source: 

Photo: Guy Bourdon, Vogue (1977), Paris. Source:

  1. Guy Bourdin’s colour fashion photographs look extremely contemporary even though most of them were taken in the 70’s (the French photographer died in 1991). If you have seen Madonna’s music video Hollywood, you might think of some parallels. Apparently the American singer was even sued by the photographer’s son who claimed the video was a visual theft of Bourdin’s iconic images.
  2. You might also think of David Lynch, Helmut Newton in colour and a bunch of other photographers and filmmakers who still exploit the same aesthetics and themes, which makes Guy Bourdin truly original and forward-thinking.
  3. I had a friend joining me for the opening of this exhibition, a professional photographer, an active feminist and a supporter of Feministiskt Initiativ. It was interesting to see the photographs from his perspective – in his eyes the images stereotypically presented woman as an object, often even a victim, as seen by a dominant male. I argued that the aesthetics were powerful enough (or just beautiful) to forgive this injustice, but my objections didn’t seem to have any effect on him – I had a feeling my friend saw this exhibition as just boring.

    Photo: Pieter ten Hoppen. Source: 

    Photo: Pieter ten Hoppen. Source:

  4. I would expect that the other show – Pieter ten Hoppen’s Hungry Horse with a forty something minutes film – would normally bore most of the visitors, but I strongly recommend you to see it. Hungry Horse is a small place in Montana, US, where not much is happening – the town population is heavily dependent on the summer tourism. The love and care with which the photographer and filmmaker approaches this subject are incredible. You fall in love with the place and with its people.
  5. You might know that Pieter ten Hoppen has been nominated for an Emmy award for this film and it took him 12 years to complete this project about the place in the Rocky Mountains of Montana. Time totally worth investing. Before you go, you might want to see the trailer for the film here.

Why does this matter to the world at large?

Guy Bourdin incorporated the concepts of terror and morbidness into what before were only “beautiful fashion pictures”. He therefore built the bridge between surrealism and contemporary fashion photography.

Peter ten Hoppen’s Hungry Horse makes you appreciate forgotten places with totally new eyes, showing the subtle beauty of the “boring” landscapes and the warmth and love of otherwise “simple people”.

How to get to Fotografiska

Stadsgårdshamnen 22
T-bana Slussen
Open 7 days a week from 09:00 to 23:00
Full price: 120 SEK
Student price: 90 SEK

Written by: Pavel Matveyev

I am originally from Russia. In this blog I will write about exhibitions and cultural events in Stockholm. These are not going to be reviews or any sorts of art critics, but mainly picks on what in my humble opinion is worth seeing. Sweden’s capital has a great variety of state-run museums and private galleries that keep up with the latest global trends. So if you’re into art and design, you’re in the right place! And, contrary to the common opinion, seeing art here is not expensive – some institutions are totally free, some offer free entrance on specific days. And if you’re a student, it also helps – the majority of museums and galleries have discounts for the visitors like you. And if you like to see the art I’m working on, you’re very welcome to check out my website.

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