Exactly two centuries ago, in 1822, photography was invented by Nicéphore Niépce. Successfully capturing the light from his camera obscura onto glass, he created the first lasting photographic image. Documentary photography is one of the medium’s longest lasting traditions and arguably its strongest. From the social documents of the modern world’s great events to the less spectacular everyday reality, documentary photography has provided viewers with opportunities for new discoveries and personal recognition. While some may argue that the genre is in decline, mainly due to the proliferation of cameras today, photographers like Martin Bogren make a strong case for its continued relevance.
Having extensively explored his native regions of southern Sweden and realised projects in Italy and New York, Bogren has ventured to India for a second time in Passenger. While his celebrated series Ocean (2008) captured the joyful reactions of men from Rajasthan encountering the sea for the first time, the mood is much more subdued this time around. Passenger was shot over the course of three stays in Kolkata – nicknamed “The City of Joy” – and presents a compelling portrait of the city’s public sphere.
Yet, to interpret Passenger at face value as a document of India would be a mistake. As with most of Bogren’s work, the places that he frequents during his photographic explorations form the stage on which he invites us on a quest for something deeper. While photography has been argued to have an inherent immediacy in its very nature, Bogren’s images seem to operate on another temporal and emotional plane that transcends the moment captured. He has demonstrated a particular skill in capturing that which may seem impossible and contradictory: suspending the frantic energy of the moment in the stillness of the fixed image. At times, the compositions in Passenger verge into almost abstract territory – heavily textured grained finishes that enrobe hazy silhouettes – with the effect of somehow making the underlying emotional charge even more lucid.
We are very happy to once again welcome Martin Bogren to CFHILL and unveil Passenger for the first time in Sweden. Met with critical acclaim at last year’s edition of Paris Photo and awarded the Prix des Perles du Beau Livre for the monograph of the same title, we are proud to present one of Sweden’s most important photographers.