Group 2

Christer Strömholm, Shinohara, ca 1961 © Christer Strömholm

Christer Strömholm

Christer Strömholm is one of the great personalities of Swedish photography. Born in Stockholm, he discovered photography via graphic art in the late 1940s. His photographs from this period are hard black-and-white compositions featuring walls, shadows and minimalist settings.

During his sojourns in Paris in the 1950s and 60s, he developed a style reminiscent of street photography, and this is also where he produced his famous portraits of transsexuals at Place Blanche. Strömholm also went on numerous photographic expeditions to places around the globe in the early 1960s, including Spain, Japan, India and the USA. Early in his career, he began teaching at Kursverksamheten in Stockholm, and his classes eventually became the legendary Fotoskolan, from which some 1,200 students graduated between 1962 and 1974. Strömholm’s photographs and methods have inspired many generations of Swedish photographers, but he did not become known to the broader public until 1986, with the major exhibition 9 Seconds in My Life at Moderna Museet.

“It is the art of SEEING that is the starting point for all creativity, and then, of course, every profession is subject to its specific mathematics and material conditions”
Christer Strömholm. From ”Opinions about the modern photography”, Subjektive Fotografie.

Biography

1918

Christer Strömholm was born in Stockholm on 22 July. His father, Fredrik Strömholm, was an army officer, and the family moved between different regiments in Sweden, including Eksjö, Lidingö, Boden and Stockholm. His mother, Lizzie, was from Gothenburg.

1934

His father committed suicide.

1935

Graduated from Enskilda gymnasiet on Nybrogatan in Stockholm, which he attended after leaving Nya Elementar school at Hötorget. In the summer went to Morungen in Germany as an exchange student, to study German.

1936-39

Volunteered in the Spanish Civil War and undertook two assignments as a courier.

1937

Went to Dresden, where he studied art under Professor Waldemar Winkler, but soon left Germany for Prague, before going on to Paris, where he met the Swedish artist Dick Beer who became his mentor. They travelled together in southern France and Christer Strömholm was instructed in art history and artistic techniques. Also studied painting at Académie André Lhote in Paris.

1938

Returned to Sweden and studied painting under Otte Sköld and Isaac Grünewald in Stockholm. Studied art in Florence and Rome.

1939

Went to Monte Carlo, Marseille, Paris and Tunis, but returned to Sweden when the Second World War broke out. Did his military service at the Göta Life Guards armoured company in Stockholm.

1940

Fought for anti-tank units as a volunteer in the Finnish Winter War on the Salla front.

1940-45

Joined the Norwegian resistance against the German occupation. Formed a voluntary ranger corps, “Grupp Conny” together with Conny Andersson, a friend from the anti-tank units in Finland.

1942

Served in the Norwegian resistance as a courier based in Stockholm until 1945.

1944-45

Married to Ellen Bergman (née Lundström).

1945 Decorated with the Norwegian War Medal at a ceremony at the Norwegian Embassy in Stockholm.

1946-51

Married to Dagny Lamm (née Andersson).

1946-56

Settled in Paris and enrolled at the Académie des Beaux-Arts, where he produced a series of artist portraits, among other works. Also studied in Italy at the academies in Florence and Faenza. Assumed the artist pseudonym Christer Christian.

1946-48

Travelled to the Atlas mountains and Carthage in North Africa, on behalf of the Ethnographic Museum in Stockholm.

1947

Attended the school of painting on rue de la Grande Chaumière in Paris during the winter semester. Joakim Strömholm, Christer Strömholm’s and Dagny Lamm’s son, was born. He started photographing in his teens and is now a professional photographer.

1948

Pursued his art studies at Académie Libre in Paris and later the same year under Professor Lennart Rodhe in Stockholm.

1949-54

Became a member of the German group Fotoform, led by Dr. Otto Steinert in Saarbrücken, Germany. Participated in exhibitions in Europe and the USA with other members of Fotoform. Developed an interest in photography, via graphic art, towards the end of the 1940s.

1951-54

Married to Inga Dyrssen-Ayers (née Svedberg)

1955

Studied oil painting and graphic art under Professor Ottone Rosai at the Academy of Art in Florence.

1956

Filmed the documentary Ansikten i skugga (Faces in Shadow) with Peter Weiss. The film was about the regulars of the old beer houses in Old Town, Stockholm. Christer Strömholm did the photography and captured the guests with a hidden 16 mm camera. Took over teaching photography at an evening school at Kursverksamheten, an adult education institute run by Stockholm University. The class, which was initially intended as a course in photographic design, developed under Christer Strömholm and Tor-Ivan Odulf into a three-year vocational training course.

1956-64

Portrayed the transsexuals in the Place Blanche neighbourhood in Paris.

1957-68

Married to Anna-Clara Krusenberg, who was an air stewardess at SAS and could occasionally bring her husband along on trips around the world for a modest fare.

1958

Worked as a coach tour guide for Scandinavian Touring until 1961. Guided tourists on trips from Malmö, via Paris, to Madrid, Valencia, Barcelona and back. During this time he photographed extensively. Started working more seriously as a photographer and went on several photographic journeys over the subsequent years.

1959

Jakob Strömholm, Christer and Anna-Clara Strömholm’s son, was born. He is currently an architect. Travelled to Palma de Mallorca, Spain.

1961

Visited Tokyo.

1962-1972

Was the director of Fotoskolan in Stockholm. The focus of the curriculum was on reportage photography and documentary film. Fotoskolan, which continued to operate two years after Strömholm resigned, graduated 1,228 professional photographers and film-makers from 1962 to 1974.

1963

Went to Hiroshima in Japan, to Calcutta in India, Nairobi in Kenya and Los Angeles, USA.

1965

Visited New York. The exhibition Till minnet av mig själv (In Memory of Myself) was shown at Galerie Observatorium, Stockholm.

1966

Was awarded the Agfa-Gevaert work grant. The exhibition Dödsbilder (Pictures of Death) was shown at Galerie Observatorium.

1967

Published Poste Restante, which was selected by an international jury in 2004 as one of the world’s 175 best photographic books.

1968-78

Lived with the artist Angelica Julner.

1970-78

Returned again to Paris when Fotoskolan closed, and settled there. Divided his time between Paris and his house, a former ruin, in Fox-Amphoux, Provence.

1976-77

Worked on a series of large-format colour polaroid pictures.

1978

The exhibition Privata bilder (Private Pictures) opened at Galleri Camera Obscura in Stockholm’s Old Town. This was the first retrospective show of his work. Met the actress Ingalill Rydberg, with whom he lived until his death, first as her partner for nine years, and then as a neighbour and close friend.

1979

Awarded the “Great Photography Prize” by FOTO magazine, in the category subjective photography.

1981

Had a stroke, from which he recovered gradually.

1982

Awarded a guaranteed income for visual artists by the government. The exhibition Privata bilder II (Private Pictures II), a sequel to the successful first exhibition on that theme, opened at Galleri Camera Obscura.

1986

The retrospective 9 sekunder av mitt liv, fotografier 1939-86 (9 Seconds of My Life, Photography 1939-86) opened at Moderna Museet, Stockholm. Some 40,000 people saw the exhibition.

1993

The government appointed him to a professorship in Photography.

1993-1997

Worked on the book Kloka ord (Wise Words), a collection of aphorisms and work notes.

1998

Winner of the 1997 International Hasselblad Award. The exhibition Christer Strömholm. 1997 Hasselblad Award Winner opened at Hasselblad Center, Gothenburg.

2002

Christer Strömholm died on 11 January. The exhibition Christer Strömholm 1918-2002. On verra bien opened at Färgfabriken in Stockholm, before touring Sweden, Germany and France.

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