Lars Tunbjörk and small town Sweden

Lars Tunbjörk is a Swedish photographer interested in showing the absurdity of contemporary life. He seems to be particularly interested in new built middle class estates, kitsch interiors, vulgar behaviour and strange behaviours from very normal looking people. Images relating to this last interest remind me of his compatriot filmmaker Roy Andersson. His photographs are brightly coloured and apparently straightforward, yet they have a deeply frightening element. Possibly because they look like commercial photography gone horribly wrong. As though some soulless advertising photographer got a high paid contract to sell you the marvels of a brand spanking new “traditional” home or a night out at your local finest chain pub, but got a nervous breakdown in the middle of the shoot and could not keep lying … I really like his work because his attitude (I mean, his attitude as I perceive it through his images) is without mercy, yet he does not seem to look down on his subjects. To me, it is as though he was looking straight into the eyes of his intellectual middle class photography gallery audience and telling them “They are pathetic, aren’t they ? You’re much better, aren’t you ? Are you ? Are you ?…” To me, the way he looks at things is brave. It takes a lot of courage to obsessively stare at ugliness and pettiness, not from higher up but, on the contrary, with a level gaze …

“I love Boras” (1995) is named after the small town where he was born, yet the photographs were taken all over Sweden. They are outtakes from his other series “A country beside itself” that documented the influence of the post-thatcherite mentality of the early 90s as it reached social-democratic Sweden. Those outtakes were judged too frightening/strange/silly to figure in the more traditional documentary main series.

“Home” (2001) explores a newly built suburban estate frighteningly perfect and empty of any human presence. He first went back to his mother’s home where he grew up to photograph it. The atmosphere of the neighbourhood unsettled him and prompted him to photograph similar places all over Sweden.

“Kiruna” (2008) presents a city in the remote far north of Sweden.

“Winter” (2008) shows exteriors and interiors of Sweden during the long dark winter, conveying the wave of depression that sweeps over the country, and the attempts people make to cope with it.