The exhibition Time’s Slowness and Life’s Swiftness opens at Sune Jonsson Center for documentary photography 14 September at 13 hours. Elin Berge takes part with work from her series Drottninglandet (the Land of Queens).

Time’s Slowness and Life’s Swiftnessis an exhibition regarding and featuring cultural-historical photography. These are pictures that have been made, collected, preserved and/or shown within the operational framework of cultural-historical museums. The overall theme is humankind and its disparate living conditions and at its core are narratives about everyday life and work, but also the agricultural landscape and other cultural environments. The assignment is to depict the past in pictures and words, thus creating greater understanding about how people used to lived, as well as documenting contemporary times and contributing to knowledge about today’s society – not least with future generations in mind.

The geographical focus of these various histories, as conveyed by the pictures in the exhibition, is mostly Västerbotten and other parts of Norrland. The structural changes and geopolitical swings of recent decades have influenced the relationship between centre and periphery, yet connects places that are far apart, even on a cultural level. One example covers people from Thailand coming to Norrland’s rural areas, some as seasonal berry pickers, others as permanent residents who have married local men. The differences – and similarities – between past and present become clear when comparing contemporary documentary work with, for example, Sune Jonsson’s portrayals of smallholder farming in the 60s. If the demographic aspects represent something new, then the bent backs of workers remain among the indelible impressions.

 Time’s Slowness and Life’s Swiftness also reflects the changes that cultural-historical photography has undergone in recent decades, containing historical material and newly produced work made within both the museum context and the art world. The increased movement between these two contexts is an example of the renegotiations that have occurred within photography. The archive is also highlighted, giving visitors an insight into the heart of cultural-historical institutions: boxes and files of material waiting to be brought to life, but also carefully catalogued and preserved collections. For years, many museums have been in the process of digitalising their collections to improve accessibility to these pictures. To emphasise the material properties of these pictures and their various manner of dissemination over the years, original pictures are displayed here, which often means they are laminated in plastic or mounted on cardboard with handwritten titles. These forms of presentation come from a time when touring exhibitions were shown at libraries, schools, town halls and other public venues.

The exhibition is accompanied by a richly illustrated, 160-page catalogue giving a more detailed and broader account of cultural-historical photography’s conditions, strategies and topics. It contains interviews with the field’s key figures and features articles covering the photo album, rural photography and much more. Time’s Slowness and Life’s Swiftness is produced by the Museum of Västerbotten and is part of curator Niclas Östlind’s comprehensive doctoral project Performing History: Photography in Sweden 1970–2014.

Photographers in the exhibition: Micke Berg, Elin Berge, Anette Boström, Magdalena Dziurlikowska, Maja Forsberg, Josefina Franke, Bertil Ekholtz, Petter Engman, Jean Hermanson, Jens S. Jensen, Sune Jonsson, Margareta Klingberg, Johannes Samuelsson, Lisa Svedberg, Edla Viklund, Maja Åström.


From the series Drottninglandet/the Land of Queens.