4 November 2018


Lars Tunbjörk, Skara 1990 (from Country Beyond Itself, 1993). © Lars Tunbjörk Estate.
Lars Tunbjörk, Avesta 2007 (from Winter, 2007). © Lars Tunbjörk Estate.

Each of us is more than one person, many people, a proliferation of our one self. That's why the same person who scorns his surroundings is different from the person who is gladdened or made to suffer by them.

– Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet

“The moment I open my eyes reality turns unelectrified” is a nifty line from poet Kristina Lugn of Chair number 14 in the pretty vacant Swedish Academy, care of the land of milk and honey. On the contrary, there is no shortage of botched realities in Lars Tunbjörk’s (1956–2015) photography. In his wonderfully opposite way, Tunbjörk never turned a blind eye to the “powerless” algorithms of ugliness. His close affinity with bizarrely awkward circumstances and underwhelming environments creates a myriad of impressions in each of his pictures, tipping from chirpy to trenchant to conversely gorgeous, discords most often sublime. Eyes wide opened to a reality of pure galvanism.

“Lars Tunbjörk’s pictures were like falling in love, I was intoxicated! No, this is not an exaggeration. This is how it was,” avows his unconventional and ingenious editor Mika Larsson from the superlative 1980s inflight magazine Upp & Ner (ner is “down” in Swedish), which was distributed to every seatback on the domestic carrier’s beautiful Fokker F28s. “We had a continual narrator and it was Lars Tunbjörk. He was exceptional. His disarming eye made him the Jacques Tati of photographic art. He registered the hilarious in us humans, which he constantly and tenderly captured. Nobody could – or can – capture the flickering moments like he did, time and time again. Early on, he also saw our great loneliness. And by directing his camera eye to the side, he saw our dreams. His eyes could ask for permission, but his magnetism assured him of a response from those he wanted to photograph.”

The Earth sinks to its grave in Tunbjörk’s elegantly compositional picture from the belly (just forget about the heart) of a dismal Gothenburg car park photographed in a sapless green light. This cake of architecture, feng shuied as it is with thrown-in slabs of trifle Styrofoam that seem to float above the ground, a blue Way Out sign and a spiralling yellow ramp topped by the most pathetic Xmas tree, is a piece of totalitarian junk from the country’s modern history – a history controlled and contrived by the Swedes’ appointed Nurse Ratchet, the Social Democratic Party.

It is perhaps not much known that Susan Sontag lived in Stockholm during the late 1960s, as a guest of the Swedish Film Institute. In her lengthy piece ”A Letter from Sweden”, published in Ramparts magazine in July, 1969, she examined an alien nation “deeply ambivalent about the fulfilment of its sensuality”: “Sweden is the only country I know of where misanthropy is a respectable attitude,” she argued. “Who wouldn't be misanthropic, if one’s personal relations were habitually stifled, loaded with anxiety, experienced as coercive. For most Swedes, human ‘contact’ is always, at least initially, a problem – though in many cases, the problem can be solved, the distance bridged. Being with people feels like work for them, far more than it does like nourishment.”

On the facing page to the car park fiasco in this screamingly magnificent new book from the Stockholm publisher Max Ström – Lars Tunbjörk: Retrospective, which collects two hundred and fifty full-page images of the Swedish photographer’s most precious moments – is a picture of an environment simply too gloomy for any scene in the DDR drama The Lives of Others (2006), and it is from the same year as the Berlin Wall went down: two unsociable people in their time of mandatory fika and an orchestra of two dark-suited undertakers playing a few steps behind – half of this congregation is dimmed by a hapless plant. Tunbjörk’s pictures are like a Theatre of the Absurd: the sweetest, grimmest, most critical, yet most sympathetic postcards of obscure sorrows, pitched to the brink of the surreal. (Sort of, “Greetings from Jollyland – May We All Get Better Together.”)

In the book Absurd Drama (1965), Martin Esslin writes that the Theatre of the Absurd operates as an assault on comfortable certitudes which “aims to shock its audience out of complacency”: “But the challenge behind this message is anything but one of despair. It is a challenge to accept the human condition as it is, in all its mystery and absurdity, and to bear it with dignity, nobly, responsibly […] The shedding of easy solutions, of comforting illusions, may be painful, but it leaves behind it a sense of freedom and relief. And that is why, in the last resort, the Theatre of the Absurd does not provoke tears of despair but the laughter of liberation.”

Tunbjörk had merely left his Södermalm apartment building to meet up with his friend Göran Odbratt (the main essay writer in Retrospective) at a Kungsgatan cinema on April 8, 2015 when his heart, out of nowhere, just stopped. A neighbour saw him and called the ambulance. Lars Tunbjörk was declared dead at 2:28 that afternoon. He was fifty-nine years old.

Paul Moakley accurately called him “one of the most influential visionaries in contemporary colour photography” in his Tunbjörk obituary in Time magazine (April 14, 2015): “I’ll always remember the photos he made of [Republican] Rick Santorum at a Buffalo Wild Wings. That day, December 30, 2011, which Lars spent driving for hours to follow the various candidates, Lars lingered after the event had ended and all the press had left. Santorum, surrounded by his staffers, stayed for dinner and Lars was able to photograph him praying over a mountain of nachos. The resulting photography perfectly demonstrated all the artifice and craft of the political theatre and showed something real about the candidate. This was Lars’s approach – subtle and without judgement.”

A retrospective, both as a comprehensive book and a show at Fotografiska in Stockholm, was in the making in the spring of 2015. “He was reluctant to do it, however, because he felt that this is something that you would do as a conclusion, and he felt that he wanted to add something new in order to do a retrospective. So he was struggling with it, but he had started to put pink notes in his books,” explains the photographer and documentary filmmaker Maud Nycander as she hands over a scrapbook chockablock with coloured paper strips. “I thought he had done enough for a retrospective, but his demands on himself were just incredible. I can understand that a retrospective is a kind of conclusion, but he thought of it as a halfway phase as well. It was also that his previous books had been out of print for years and that his images were unavailable.”

Nycander, who married Tunbjörk on her fiftieth birthday, says that two years passed before she was able to pick up her husband’s work again. “In a way it has been burdensome, but also very meaningful, and what is meaningful is gratifying to me. It is a privilege to take care of and process his photos, also for the sake of my own healing. We met in 1992, so after that I know every job he has done. Lars always sat at the kitchen table with his work. So it’s also like I have been going through our common life.”

“In working with the retro book, I sent Lars’s earlier books on referral. I made my choices first, and then others made theirs. If many people liked a certain picture it got a second chance. My selection was maybe ninety per cent of how things worked out, but oftentimes it is the ten per cent that will make it great in the end. My ambition with both the book and the show is not to make any new interpretation of his work, or do my personal interpretation, but to try to put it as close to Lars as possible, so that one should be able to follow his art over time.”

Lars Tunbjörk – A View From the Side is the name of the show at Fotografiska, curated by Maud Nycander and Tunbjörk’s older colleague Hasse Persson who shared the same photographic background as Tunbjörk at the local morning paper Borås Tidning. The show is a little bit too tightly presented to be on the same perfect level as the organic elegance of the book, though the prints are lush and of the original intended sizes. Something that is lost in the book is the complete visualisation of a waitress’s pale but pretty face in Karlskrona 1996 from Tunbjörk’s profoundly personal series Winter (published in 2007).

In this picture, in the show, you see the photographer in her pupils, raising his homemade flashgun featuring a plastic globe from a bathroom lamp as a diffuser. Tunbjörk said that he was kind of lost without his hallmark flash – on display along with a power pack, a light meter and his favourite camera, the brass-bodied Makina 67 – which was a clever and effective arrangement for his handheld method, and one of the secrets behind his democratic principle that everything in his pictures is of equal importance.

In Sinclair Lewis’s novel Main Street (1920), Carol Kennicott contemplates how an escape from one American small town to another would be a “flight from familiar tedium to new tedium” but that it nonetheless would provide “for a time the outer look and promise of adventure”. It is the “Village Virus” of these places that she fears the most: “The contentment of the quiet dead, who are scornful of the living for their restless walking. It is negation canonised as the one positive virtue. It is the prohibition of happiness. It is slavery self-sought and self-defended. It is dullness made God.”

Lars Tunbjörk could never quite agree with the anti-drama of life’s commonplace routines, and had, in Nycander’s words, “a hard time with the usual, rather boring things that we have to do and which occupy quite a bit of our everyday lives. Because he was so talented, he was early on assigned to do the most satisfying jobs. And he had grown up as the only child and was a bit spoiled.” The irony of this is that wherever these fine assignments took him, he somewhat (to some degree or another) always photographed the ho-hum preoccupations and the proud dullness of small-town living. But the beauty in this is that Tunbjörk photographed it like Paul Thomas Anderson filmed the disconnected Barry in the Honolulu phone booth in Punch-Drunk Love (2002). It’s so ugly, it’s so sad – but the moment that Lena picks up the phone, the booth becomes luminous. 

The rosso corsa frames that Tunbjörk chose for the pictures in his international breakthrough series Country Beside Itself, published in 1993, were an affirmation to the red colour of the buses in the small city where he was born. He moved to Stockholm when he was twenty and of course later worked all over the world but Borås was always the inception. (As Göran Odbratt puts in his essay, “Lars left Borås but Borås never left him.”) When an artist habitually returns to his or her place of origin it is generally related to grand-style trauma, but Tunbjörk really had a good life there and was properly schooled at Borås Tidning during his teens. In Stockholm he joined a cooperative of photographers and moved on to the morning paper Stockholms-Tidningen until its demise in 1984. His photojournalism was so special (some of these black and white pictures are featured in the Retrospective) that he became the Photographer of the Year in Sweden in 1982.

A personal failure was his pictures from Liverpool two years later. Tunbjörk spent six weeks in the company of alternative Liverpudlians for a set of stills that were used in a film on the Swedish public television broadcaster (SVT). However, when he went back to the UK and showed the result, people just thought it was pretty awful. “Although I tried to explain that they themselves had taken me to the places I had photographed, they didn’t think that my pictures represented reality. It was probably something with the imagery that made them think that the city looked as if it had been observed through the eyes of a stranger. It was an eye-opener and I decided to only photograph what I knew,” he told a photo magazine in 2011. “For a while I thought about only photographing Borås. But I pretty soon realised that I wouldn’t tolerate it. Still, I have essentially been lingering in the Swedish small town and the everyday life there. That is what ultimately interests me, the most common. I want to turn and twist what’s most obvious.”

In his book A Philosophy of Boredom, Lars Svendsen dips deeply into life’s principal threadbare staple: “Boredom lacks the charm of melancholy – a charm that is connected to melancholy’s traditional link to wisdom, sensitivity and beauty […] Boredom is not just an inner state of mind; it is also a characteristic of the world, for we participate in social practices that are saturated with boredom. At times, it almost seems as if the entire Western world has become like Berghof, the sanatorium Hans Castorp stayed at for seven years in Thomas Mann’s novel The Magic Mountain [1924]. We kill time and bore ourselves to death.”

Tunbjörk enchanted boredom, his pictures hack our brains with dopamine. But he needed the colours, and a bold editor in the 1980s, to make it happen. “Tunis”, as his friends and colleagues called him, was the first person that Mika Larsson engaged when she took over the helm of Upp & Ner magazine. “Tunis was very determined about colour – it was not his tool. Colour was only surface. But he had seen a portrait of August Strindberg in a passage in one of the capital’s metro stations, a black and white photograph against a burning, scorching deep red background. He went back there again and again. The colour photography of ‘Sweden’s biggest fire’ actually became Lars Tunbjörk’s first published image in Upp & Ner. It was in late spring, 1983.”

“We had many conversations about this new ‘fad’ – colour photography – and of course I respected his attitude: the Strindberg picture was an exception! I think I have located what was Tunis’s game changer at Upp & Ner: the portrait of the author Klas Östergren. It was unthinkable for Lars to take a portrait in colour. Maybe it was a friendship gesture, I am not sure about that, but he accepted my proposal to take the portrait both in black and white and in colour,” Larson recounts. “I remember his surprise when he saw the result. It was Lars Tunbjörk who chose the portrait in colour that was to be on the cover in the late summer of 1983.”

“‘The Mirror of Us’ was published in the next issue – a story entirely in colour about a workshop in Södermalm in Stockholm where mannequins were manufactured, and it was Tunbjörk’s own decision. In the beginning, he treated his colour photography as if the images were taken in black and white. Shadow play and midtones were an important part of the story. But with each new story, his curiosity added to the possibilities of colour photography. The black and white image was soon the exception, despite the fact that the theme of the narratives was increasingly approaching Country Beyond Itself. He found expression in colour for the raising melancholy, the growing darkness.”

The beliefs of the world are hanging in suspension in Country Beyond Itself, Tunbjörk’s masterful multipack of unflattering Swedishness – bagged during the era when Nurse Ratchet’s almost unlimited control over everything and everyone was weakened and Sweden’s grim outlook vacillated between familiar tedium and a new tedium in the early 1990s. “It was very exciting to travel around Sweden at the time, it was almost like travelling around the US sometimes. It was brand new colours, plastic and glitter that had emerged during these few boom years of the 80s. And it was a kick to shoot at first, till you are fed up with the whole thing.” According to Tunbjörk it was like having too much candy to eat. “I just got angrier and angrier as the project progressed, at the dismantling of the welfare state. And it had only just begun then, it has become worse and worse ever since.”

A living room in Borås: the eyes go from the legs of a person sitting in a hideous sofa and a big window with a jungle out there, to a fireplace with a fake flame and a white TV set with Sweden’s Maggie Thatcher, a Count who made a political career in the early 90s together with his sidekick “Servant”, the latter who has ever since lined his pockets with money from the very migrant business he despises. Country Beyond Itself is a peepshow of sorts, a multifaceted portrait of a monotonous nation, a phantasmagoria quite like Ari Aster’s marvellous first hour of Hereditary (2018) in which we enter a cabinet of curiosities where reality is just a little different and things occur with a passel of incertitudes. So how are the Swedes doing in Tunbjörkville? They are living la vida loca, in the sole company of themselves, or with others, doing exactly the same things.

Sweden as a spiritual desert and the Swedes as a people of a totalitarian temperament are the key themes in the former Stockholm correspondent Roland Huntford’s book The New Totalitarians (1971). Sweden was the first nation in the world to embody “scientific” Fascism, and the National Institute for Race Biology was founded in 1922 in Uppsala. But Sweden’s worst crimes in the name of “racial hygiene” went on for decades after World War II. Sixty-three thousand people (mostly women) were subjected to force sterilisation and four thousand were lobotomised. There was also at least one locality that had the prerequisites of a Gulag in the Swedish welfare state, folkhemmet

“Difference in the Swedish world has always been something undesirable, half sin, half disease. In the modern Welfare State, its eradication has become an obsession, because its continued existence is a flaw in the system,” Huntford argues. “Personality has been suppressed, the collective worshipped at the expense of the individual. Given the European ethos, this might be expected to arouse rebellion. But not among the Swedes. They love their servitude […] It leads to the paradox that, while the Swede is immersed in the collective, and looks upon community and solidarity as the most desirable of attributes, he is locked up in himself, isolated from other human beings.”

Maud Nycander pronounces that what Tunbjörk portrayed in Sweden were also things that took place throughout the Western world. “Alas, in my brief search for the authentic England I did not discover it,” lamented the wonderful Brian Sewell in “A Weekend in the Country”, from his column in the London Evening Standard (April 25, 2000), featured in The Orwell Essays: “It is true that I found byways and backwaters of pedestrianized conservation, but these were self-consciously neat, clean, re-processed and deprived of meaning, reduced to the authenticity of ornaments advertised in Sunday supplements as limited editions and bought for her mantelpiece by Hyacinth Bucket.”

“For £99 a night what does one get in provincial England? A building that in its cheap and bleak design (it cannot be called architecture) is as hostile to the soul as a block of workman’s flats on the outskirts of Zagreb […] The ubiquitous McDonald’s is next door, and one step up from it is TGI Friday’s, staffed by terrified mutant bunny girls with fluffy tails sprouting from their shoulder blades, where wild Antarctic salmon is lovingly seared with sticks of glowing charcoal by thigh-looted, whip-cracking kitchen maids especially for you-hoo; in such a place the simple refreshment of a plain vanilla ice cannot be had – one must choose a Chocolate Chunky Monkey or a Strapping Strawberry Wench.”

Country Beyond Itself was on show at Hasselblad Center in Gothenburg in 1993, at the Nordic Museum in Stockholm in 1994, and opened at the International Center of Photography in New York on December 1, 1995. Nycander mentions a trip to France in the summer of 1994 that was more than a holiday. “Lars had little international jobs or contacts then and only worked for the Swedish press, and we were passing through Arles and he stood in line to show his photos for Christian Caujolle – and then he joined Agence Vu directly. By Xmas, I was pregnant and we swapped flats with Joseph Rodríguez in New York, he has kids in Sweden, and Joseph gave him a list of people who should receive the book. Lars got a show at the ICP after a year. It was quite overwhelming for him. Kathy Ryan gave him a job at The New York Times Magazine that fall, and Lars worked for them regularly until he died.”

Six of Tunbjörk’s first pictures for the Times are in the book (one less in the show), like the one of the cowboy guy who looks like he has lost his human proportions until you see that he is hovering over a trampoline. This was one of the few pictures that Tunbjörk arranged, and how he got the cowboy to bounce like that with his arms tight to his body over the course of five rolls of film is a happy mystery. “I was over the Moon when I saw the 1995 pictures of the rich ranchers because I thought this is clearly an extraordinary eye at work. I love the way Lars cropped his pictures – for me it was an early sign of how he would organise the world in his frame, which was often to create a frame within a frame,” tells Kathy Ryan, picture editor of The New York Times Magazine since the mid-1980s, in a text based on the speech she gave at Borås Art Museum on October 13, 2017, during the inauguration of the Lars Tunbjörk Room. “It makes me feel bad that he was so worried, because everything he did would end up great.”

Next to these pictures at Fotografiska (as well as in the book) are some odd and sad and great samples from Paris Fashion Week in 2004 for the French magazine Libération. This batch of photographs combines Tunbjörk, the photojournalist with Tunbjörk, the ironic observer of human behaviour, and it is surely the only time he pictured people with dark sarcasm in the classroom. There are no glam catwalk pictures in this series, only the turmoil and confusion backstage at the fashion shows and scraps from the dejected afterparties with the fashion pack. In a self-portrait in the mirror by some model’s (Monica) clothes rail, Tunbjörk erases himself with his flash. In 1981, when he photographed a Moscow boy wearing a suit jacket big as the one in Talking Heads’ Stop Making Sense (1984), that was also a self-portrait.

Nycander: “He looked a little bit lost as a person, and somewhat it was true that he could be confused, though he had total control of the situation. So there was a duality. He was absolutely not a person who anyone was intimidated by, which is a huge advantage as a photographer. We did a documentary [Road’s End (2013)] together in Latvia, and Lars was filming. I have worked with many film photographers, but he was the one who could get a person to love to re-enact a take for the fifth time. Lars was so sincere about what he was doing that people felt that they wanted to help him and that they too would take it seriously.”

He had photographed Paris before, for Paris 200 Years Afterwards (1989). The idea came from this great lady Mika Larsson during her “honeymoon” at a publishing house of popular literature, and she engaged the then-Paris correspondent of the national broadcaster Sveriges Radio, Herman Lindqvist, because she needed a renown figure to sell the book of this no-name artist. “Herman did not know about Lars Tunbjörk. He had never written about history, he was a columnist and a news journalist. I asked them to give each other a week together in Paris at our expense. Then they could make the decision. I knew that they would say yes and they said yes.” Unlike Country Beyond Itself, and what came later, these diapositive pictures have a clear sense of the “street” and outside – hence not the enclosed dioramas that would follow – but they are unmistakable tunbjörkers, pictures that no one else could have taken.

Herman Lindqvist remembered Tunbjörk as “one of the greatest photographers that I have met” on his Facebook page on April 11, 2015, and described the outcome of their almost wordless meetings in Paris in the late 1980s: “The week afterwards he showed incredible unique fun pictures that never had been taken before in Paris. This he did without speaking a word of French, just a kind of Borås English, loaded with his seriousness. Everyone obeyed him, even the French models who realised that here was a great artist. Rarely have I been so saddened by the news of someone’s demise.”

“Tedium …” wrote Fernando Pessoa in The Book of Disquiet (published posthumously in 1982), “It is suffering without suffering, to want without desire, to think without reason … It’s like being possessed by a negative demon, like being bewitched by nothing at all.” This is the sense that purveys Lars Tunbjörk’s Office (2001), the boredom of life made manifest by “white-collar” workplaces chiefly in New York, Tokyo and Stockholm. And the latter takes the cake of course. The picture of the far most spacious office, called Stockholm 1994, shows a man behind a boxy grey computer in an unintentionally creepy setting, a half-“lost-in-the-woods”-half-“shack-in-the-archipelago” funhouse (mind the chopping block with the missing axe). Tunbjörk was attracted to these things because he thought “they looked like small prison cells but also like beautiful objects”.

“He had a funny relationship towards ugliness,” says Maud Nycander. “He often thought that the ugly was beautiful. Often he didn’t think that what others thought was beautiful was beautiful. He could buy absolutely crazy things, incredibly kitschy – but kitsch with finesse. I learned how he saw a difference between one and the other. Lars did a project about flowers. He was fascinated by flower fairs and how we try to subdue and organise nature.”

The world is a no place without the people you love. Home (2002) is Tunbjörk’s bleak elegy to his father. Its centre is the house where Tunbjörk grew up, with bits of Borås and the rest of the country. These pictures are flashes of an afterlife, an overexposed heaven; playgrounds without kids and domestic gardens void of people, places where nothing ever happens.

The Happy Nation returned a few years later with a book of “leftovers” from Country Beyond Itself – this time as a wilder form of bacchanalia – and they are a cure for wellness, all right. As Odbratt suggests, “In the book I Love Borås! (2006) Lars invites us all home, certain that what resounds in me resounds in you.” I Love Borås! has a thing or two in common with the Strapping Strawberry Wench reality of Sean Baker’s The Florida Project (2017), one of the greatest films of the decade, with the people in the purple Magic Castle Inn and Suits at US Highway 192, just scraping along in the tacky dusk of Disney World Orlando.

Tunbjörk was tormented by the merciless Swedish winters. Winter, his masterpiece, is a mournful composition of pictures about the depressions that took over his life during this never-ending season. “It was almost like therapy,” he explained. “I usually end up in some kind of darkness in January. With Winter I somehow tried to attack it. It was difficult because I had previously been dependent on the bright and clear light to be able to photograph. But once it worked, I renewed my imagery well and truly. It became faster and harder. On the other hand, it took a year before I thought I had something going on.” Tunbjörk was on an assignment for the morning paper Göteborgs-Posten in 2004 “to travel around Sweden and pretty much do what I wanted for a few weeks”. But it was in the middle of the winter and he was ready to give in when he arrived in the country’s darkest city, north of the Arctic Circle, with its constant nights during midwinter. And he started to click away.

The Victorians’ reaction to the world becoming industrial and mechanical was to create dream spheres and fantasy worlds. Some of the pictures in Winter look like Colette’s old snow globes where flakes are falling restfully in self-contained worlds with picturesque fir trees or a dirty snow-cake road junction. However, Tunbjörk makes no attempt to court and spark any of this with hints of whimsy and zestful enthusiasm. You just have to cope. There is no Way Out in this suffering. This time, Sweden is just the backdrop for a shrunken world where the debauchery of ugliness generates disease and everything seems to have grown like this by accident, the isolation too. 

The fast food place in Avesta 2007 has been demolished but lives on as a well of loneliness and tastelessness in Tunbjörk’s unglamorous version of Hopper’s Nighthawks (1942). Winter is altogether graced by the Groke and severe vitamin D deficiency, and the pictures are as dismal as Swedish small-town pizzas and their pervertible all-together-now toppings of you-wouldn’t-believe-it (there is one depicted in Stockholm 2004), but Tunbjörk attacks and balances his nightmare spheres into sheer excellence. This is a photographic master’s unyielding portrait of his own depression, at his barest human self.

How would a Country Beyond Itself have looked today when the lunatics have taken over the asylum? A Creative Mornings event with Fotografiska’s co-founder Jan Broman at the Stockholm venue this year (August 24) attracted one hundred and thirty-one attendees, the bulk of them women with eyes wide shut to everything but their cell phone vanities, a congregation of Your Highnesses unfit to communicate in any way that would require effort or style. “Fotografiska is all about creating conversation,” announced Broman before he pushed a button on his Apple device which presented a slideshow with an ugly Americanised speaker voice:

“The Swedish Museum of Photography have [sic] been deeply engaged in issues concerning democracy, justice and gender equality ever since it opened in 2010. Sweden is one of the most equal countries in the world, but there is [sic] still differences to be found between men and women. For example, men earn, on average, thirteen per cent more than women. To create awareness and to spark debate about the pay gap, the Museum decided to adjust its entry price in an unequal way on International Women’s Day of 2017. This meant raising the price by thirteen per cent for men.”

This sales talk went on, unashamedly, with an account of the massive impact that this stunt of bogus Feminism had generated in the press and on social media. Compare the wage gap fallacy to the fact that nine out of ten human beings who die in work-related accidents are men. How about Fotografiska raising the price by ninety-three per cent for women in the name of “democracy, justice and gender equality”? No, go on, tell another lie, and make it huge. This is, after all, the country beyond itself.

Mika Larsson describes Lars Tunbjörk as a low-key character with a magnetic presence. “The years when I knew him he almost always walked with a smile on his face. Except when he was working. He was extremely receptive, extremely focused and extremely demanding with himself. Often when I saw him and his work, I thought of the cello. Tunis was like a cello tone.”

Lars Tunbjörk, USA 1995 (from The New York Times Magazine). © Lars Tunbjörk Estate.
Lars Tunbjörk, Times Square New York 1996 (from The New York Times Magazine). © Lars Tunbjörk Estate.

Lars Tunbjörk – Retrospective published by Max Ström, and Lars Tunbjörk – A View From the Side at Fotografiska in Stockholm through December 2, 2018.