The recent passing of Lars Tunbjörk has shaken the photographic community worldwide. Here in Scandinavia, no photographer has been unaffected by Lars’ work. To us at Moment Lars was a personal friend, mentor, inspiration and example of the power of documentary imagery originating in our Scandinavian back yard.

We are all very deeply affected by Lars’ death and want to honor him by a few personal reflections on our relationships with him and his work. In a short series of posts, a few of us at Moment will choose one of Lars’ images and add our personal commentary to it here on our blog.

I am first out and have chosen Lars’ photograph from my home town.

 

Linkoping1992Tunbjork

Linköping 1992 by Lars Tunbjörk

 

I grew up in Linköping in the 80s and 90s. Linköping is a Swedish city of about 100 000 people, mostly middle class. It is dominated by Linköping University, heavy on technical studies, and by Saab that manufactures the fighter jet JAS 39 Gripen, which started production in the late 80s. It was a bright period for Sweden, Linköping, and me.

I had arrived in Linköping in 1982 from communist Poland, by a twist of fate and the invitation of my academic parents to teach at Linköping Univeristy by their colleagues there. I had traded the concrete of Warsaw for the newly asphalted potato fields of Linköping. The city was growing. In the early nineties, new techno-parks modelled after their Silicon-Valley counterparts were springnig up around the university. Bright offices were populated by newly graduated technical students and ficus trees. We had the sun in our eyes, as Linköping’s own Bob Dylan, named Lars Winnerbäck, was singing.

Sweden was rapidly replacing gray socialism with brightly colored capitalism.

In 1992 I was a high school student of natural sciences. Most of my free time I spent pedalling my bike against the wind (in Linköping, no matter where you went you had head wind) between friends who had just gotten the first color Macs, the university computer club, and the newly built tennis hall in the science park Mjärdevi, between the university and my parent’s house.

The tennis hall where I practiced can be seen in the background of Lars Tunbjörk’s picture from the spring of 1992. Behind the truck with the JAS 39 cockpit can also be seen the bike path I was on many times a week. Maybe the very same day Lars took this picture.

I did not know Lars Tunbjörk back then. If I had seen him photograph while I was cycling by, I would have stopped and inroduced myself. I would have met him for the first time that day.  I was already interested in photography, but at this time I was mostly reading ski magazines and dreaming of becoming an adventure photographer. Regardless, it was far more probable that I would end up as one of those engineers who designed the fighter jet cockpit that houses a Benjamin ficus in Lars’ photograph. Many of my classmates did.

I learnt about Lars and his work about a year later when his book Landet Utom Sig (Country Beside Itself) came out, with the picture from Linköping in it. The book was an eye opener. It showed us a different view of ourselves and our country. Raw, illuminated, absurd, yet respectful and hilariously funny. It showed us and everyone else who we were and where we were heading at the time. It showed me the power of documentary photography and of a unique, personal view of the ordinary. Literally of my own home, bike path, and the society I was growing up in. It made me want to become a documentary photographer like Lars.

When I met Lars many years later, he became even more than a role model. He became a good a friend and a mentor.

Thank you Lars for showing me how to see.

Chris Maluszynski