One of Sweden’s most respected and awarded photographs, Martin Bogren exhibits Italia at Fotografiska, a photographic series which is also a photo book published by Max Ström. Italia is the result of several long sojourns in the southern European country, a poetic depiction of a crossroads. Martin Bogren’s previous exhibition at Fotografiska in 2011, Lowlands, gave rise to the series Tractor Boys in which he documented rural life in his home village in Skåne, southern Sweden and his encounter with today’s 15-year-olds. Encounters that reflected his own teenage experiences, which made Bogren, shaped by a desire to leave the village, employ photography to fill in the memory gaps. With Italia, Bogren has positioned himself in a sensual here and now, replete with lyricism and a dreamy quality.
“After at period of travelling in the East and experiencing a special kind of melancholy, I longed for something different. I wanted to explore new things, broaden my horizons and discover other sides of life. I’m interested in personal storytelling. My journey began in Rome. As a photographer, you are on your own and you meet colleagues who are in the same situation.”
Bogren was subsequently invited to Naples, Palermo and further north to Bologna and Turin.
“Countries taste differently in the north and in the south. And it was the south that corresponded with what I was looking for, as I asked the question: Who will the middle-aged Martin Bogren become when he encounters this environment and these people who are so much more open and generous in their contact with their fellow beings than in many other places?”
Bogren works in the tradition of classic street photography, which in his case is street photography with a personal, documentary approach. In reality, it means long walks from early morning to late at night, in southern climes with an afternoon siesta. Constantly walking and searching, hopefully in a flow, that indescribable feeling which is so hard to put into words, the experience of abandoning oneself to something – something which, at that particular moment, is everything.
The process could be likened to a reportage that started out in a documentary fashion, with a clear agenda, and then expanded into an arena of reflections of Bogren himself. Not only in the role of a unique individual but as a representative of something universal. The documentary of the country turns into a search for the processes that unite the individual human being with the greatness which we are all part of. The universal.
“We are our history and the camera is a fantastic tool for approaching people, when you look for yourself in others. Particularly for someone who is a bit shy. You have an excuse to expose yourself to, and position yourself in, situations you would otherwise never have experienced. Sometimes the encounter only lasts for a few seconds and I nod a brief thank you. It can vary from people who unbeknownst to themselves end up in a photograph to the beginning of long-lasting friendships.”
For Pauline Benthede, Exhibition Manager at Fotografiska, Italia is a much-appreciated revisit by Bogren.
“Martin Bogren’s poetic imagery has transformed him into one of his generation’s most prominent storytellers. In contrast to the nostalgic flashbacks in Bogren’s earlier series, Lowlands and Tractor Boys, Italia is a memoir of the present. He is no longer looking to the past but to the future and his journey to the southern European country is not only real but also spiritual. During his peregrinations in cities and landscapes, the analogue photograph helps slow down the photographer, leaving room for reflection. It is in the encounter with the people and the light that the fragile and rough photographs are created, infused with a longing that many of us can identify with.”
Martin Bogren was born in 1967 in Skåne, Sweden. Lowlands was presented at Fotografiska in 2011. Italia the book is published by Bokförlaget Max Ström.