All images copyright Gunnar Smoliansky.
Today’s photographer is a Swede, which is not to criticise him in the least. Some remarkable work has emerged from Sweden, not least Anders Petersen and Christer Strömholm. Indeed today’s subject, Gunnar Smoliansky, was a student of Strömholm’s, not that you would know it from the first image below. Or from the second or third.
Gunnar. It’s not fault his name is Gunnar. That was his parents’ decision and surely taken after only great thought and deliberation. While Gunnar would not be the first choice for my male offspring, one can at least say he dodged a bullet when Mum and Dad didn’t opt for Stig or Knut, which would both have been distinct contenders since he came to this world when older-style names were well in fashion in 1933.
As mentioned, Gunnar studied under Strömholm and one can indeed see this influence in Gunnar’s humanistic images. And three cheers for those, nothing wrong with them, in fact many are really great. But at some point — the 1980s to be precise — Gunnar decided to try something different.
Now there’s nothing wrong at all with trying something different. Indeed it is to be encouraged. Artists should push themselves, experiment, test their limits and their audience. But if the result is shite, then they should put the failed work away and not try to pull the wool over our eyes with it for decades to come.
So the reason I’m picking on Gunnar today is because I received a newsletter a couple of months ago drawing my attention to his exhibition at Galerie Vu’ in Paris. A selection of the images being shown accompanied the newsletter and it would be no exaggeration to say that my immediate and unequivocal response upon seeing them was, ‘I crap on these photos’.
Let us start with the image of the wall above. I don’t want to be rude, but why the fuck would anyone take this picture? And why the fuck would anyone hang it in a gallery? And why, for Christ’s sake, would anyone actually pay money to hang it in their home? This photo is rubbish.
I could meditate on this concrete wall for a year or more, and I still do not believe it would reveal itself to me. I’m not interested in its texture. I’m not interested in the plant jutting up from the ground either. Is it because I’m stupid? Or is it because this image is a photographic emperor’s new clothes and needs to be called as such?
No doubt someone out there will tell me that I’m the one at fault and I simply don’t get it. Well you know what? You’re right—I don’t get it at all. If you know the answers, do tell me what I’m missing, because I think a monkey could have taken that picture.
The second image is no different. It is nothing. I have taken my time and looked at it closely, but my emotional response is zero. There is no depth, no intelligence, no strength, no message, no story. In its favour, I don’t think a monkey could have taken this one, yet even so the shadows say nothing interesting to me. It is a poor photo, in no way satisfying. Yet there it is, hanging in a significant gallery.
Do I have anything better to say about the third image?
Sadly not. Perhaps some very minor redemption can be found in the symmetry of the three bushes or the stubble of the wall. But it’s very, very minor. In truth there’s nothing there, no vision of note. It’s rubbish. In fact, the entire series is rubbish. Rubbish, I tell you! Or maybe I just don’t get it.
Conclusion? Hej Gunnar, you have done some lovely work back in the day, but you seriously jumped the shark with this stuff. Spare us once and for all your empty ‘conceptual’ offerings (if that’s what one would call them), since they sadly leave me with no choice but to crap on your photos. Crap Factor 9.5/10.