The Work of Christer Stromholm

Swedish Photographer Christer Stromholm documented intimate imagery of those forgotten or shunned by wider society.  Little known outside his home country, Stromholm is one of the most skilled and evocative photographers of the 20th century.  It is obvious that he befriended and identified with his subjects as his work is not the viewpoint of an outsider or a voyeur but a confident.  There is a strong sense of identification and empathy towards his subjects and this clearly enabled him to strike an extraordinary balance between relaxed honesty and classically dignified artistry in his photographs.  Factual records, his works are poetic and inescapably romantic in tone.  With a sensitivity for light, translucent surfaces and rhythmic, repetitive patterns, Stromholm’s potentially controversial subject matter is seen in a sensitive, tactile manner.  Perhaps most famous for his work in Paris in the 1960s, in which he documented transexual ‘ladies of the night’ Stromholm avoids any grotesque or sensational temptations and records truly beautiful and emotional portraits of the friends he had made and clearly grown to love.  All young transexuals in their preoperative stage, his subjects seem confident and comfortable in his gaze and do not shock or defy a disapproving audience but identify as individuals quite apart from the label that ostracises them from society as a whole.  These are not images of mere acceptance but of true admiration, attraction and importance.  His painterly finish describes rippling textures in skin, material, liquid, bustling crowds, architecture and smoke leaving us with a feeling that everything within his pictures are connected and made of the same trembling matter.  His work raised profound questions about the rights of transgender populations and society’s attitudes to them, their tendency to distance, shun, attack or ignore.  In 18983 he wrote, “It was then—and still is—about obtaining the freedom to choose one’s own life and identity.”  An eloquent master of documentary photography and a progressive voice for  equality, Stromholm’s work stands alone as an exquisite record of beauty in unlikely corners.

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