A David Bowie track from the ”Low” album (1977) gave the project its name. As the title indicates, it reflects the ever-accelerating tempo of our world. It’s not wrong to see ”Speed of Life” as a homage to Bowie, whose boundary-busting world of art, music, fashion and style was one of Mikael Jansson’s primary inspirations for deciding to devote his life to photography.
”Speed of Life” is about man’s place in the world, about belonging, identity and identification. What makes the photos distinctive is their heightened atmosphere, their almost up-on-tip-toes emotional elevation. Some of the photos are in sharp focus, others conspicuously grainy, creating a filter between the photo and the beholder, adding to their feeling of timelessness.
Rarely do we see any faces. Rather, masks, suits and protective gear cover nearly every human element, lending the photos a theatrical dimension. The homogeneously dressed figures meld together, becoming a group entity, an overall symphony of motion in which everybody knows what he should be doing and a hundredth of a second can make all the difference in the world. The photos oscillate between close proximity and sweeping distance. In a few, beneath the visor of the helmet, we meet the driver’s gaze, betraying expectation, total concentration and a focus on the now – but also dread.
”Speed of Life”lays bare a psychological state that has no beginning and no end. At centre-stage is the relationship between the drivers and the audience. Like a wordless classical drama, it plays out before our eyes. There is a parallel to the aesthetics of advertising and the international fashion world – another subculture with which Mikael Jansson is intimately familiar. The photos end up serving as a jumping-off place for more universal questions about the conditions of life, dreams and driving ambitions, too. They reveal a deep interest in the power of the photographic image. But they are also very much concerned with the vulnerability of the body and the close proximity of death. Most of the images have a feeling of waiting or expectation, reminding us how the camera turns us all into voyeurs.