Gunnar Smoliansky

An existential view

“Home” is a word we use to describe a unique place with which we share an exceptional social, emotional and physical relationship. In this space so deeply rooted within our soul, Swedish photographer Gunnar Smoliansky has found an inexhaustible source of inspiration for his life’s work spanning more than six decades. Smoliansky’s home is the Swedish capital of Stockholm, or more precisely the Södermalm and Saltsjö-Boo districts of the city – a closely confined geographic area, in which he has worked for most of his life and still lives today.

The artist’s visual world and the environment in which he lives are therefore practically identical. This stands in contrast to the romantic ideal of travelling photographers, many of them adventurous globetrotters who captured remarkable images of foreign landscapes and cultures with their cameras around the same time as Smoliansky. He, however, describes and reflects on situations he finds in his familiar surroundings.

From the start of his career in the early 1950s, he developed his own artistic style, which still characterizes his images today. His photographic eye accentuates objects in space, portrays passers-by as well as streets of houses, captures details of buildings – and, again and again, trees. Preferably in small format, often square and always in black-and-white, he arranges lines, objects and surfaces in a balanced pattern. His motifs never seem morbid or distorted; rather each individual picture seems to attest to a universal harmony and homogeneity of events: Windows in the wall of an old house become an object of study for graphic design theories; the intensive expression of a beautiful young girl on the roadside brings to mind a scene from a young adult’s novella. Work in the darkroom is always an important creative aspect for him: He experiments with details, contrast and grey tones, enhancing his artistic talent with fine craftsmanship. Yet Smoliansky’s photographs do not tell a coherent story. His imagery does not fit into the genre of photojournalism – forms, objects and structures all vie for attention with an urgent evocative force. In the literary world, he would probably have been a poet, highlighting details of everyday life that reflect the very nature of our existence in short, questioning verses. These “visual poems” open the eyes of the observer – to an enjoyment of beauty and truthfulness in the here and now and surprising discoveries beyond the familiar.

Biographical information

1933

born in Visby, Gotland, Sweden

1965

begins working as a freelance photographer

lives and works in Stockholm, Sweden.