One Picture at a Time - Gunnar Smoliansky

blogEntryTopperIn 2012 I discovered the photography of the Finnish photographer, Pentti Sammallahti. Last year (2013) I had another lovely discovery, that of the Swedish photographer Gunnar Smoliansky. His first ever exhibition in the UK, at the age of 80, was held in the Michael Hopper Gallery in London and I subsequently read about it in Black and White Photography Magazine. Impressed by the photography in the magazine, I sought out his retrospective book One Picture at a Time published by Steidl in 2009.

The book covers his entire career, at the time of publication, 1952-2008 and is one generous book containing as it does over 230 tritone printed plates.


Smoliansky has said that he dislikes getting involved in projects preferring instead to take one picture at a time. A great title for the book, as the viewer is asked to experience the pictures one by one. There is no sequencing, images sit side by side independent of each other, strong, bold, enigmatic, playful, abstract, tender.


As Gerry Badger says in his concise essay in the book, ‘Smolliansky is not making art but responding to life’


At times one see’s the influence of photographers like Lee Friendlander, Aaron Siskind or even Andre Kertész. His compositional style is clean, precise, one might say classical.


Smoliansky has said that ‘You need fresh eyes and not experience when you are about to take a photograph'


The book also contains an essay by Marie Lundquist which is nicely spread out, a page at a time, throughout the book, encouraging one to read it as you encounter it.



As to the production of this book I can have only the highest of praise. Printed on a nicely weighted warm paper stock, the tritone printing is up to Steidl’s high standards. About 30cm x 30cm, it comes in a cloth bound hard cover with dust jacket.


At time of writing it seems difficult to get new but hopefully a second edition will come soon. This photographer deserves to be better known worldwide.

Gunnar Smoliansky’s website

My books of the year-2013

blogEntryTopperThis year has been a very good year of for photography books. The picture above shows my top five. But the top place goes to Agnes Sire’s book on the Chilean photographer Sergio Larrain.

Published this year, one year after his death and some 40 odd years after he gave up professional photography, SERGIO LARRAIN is a welcome reminder of this man’s sensitive and poetic vision. I say reminder, but in truth, much of this work is new to me which makes it all the more exciting. Agnes Sire has collected around 200 works by Larrain. Most of the photographs were taken between 1951-1963 approx.


His photos have a lovely visual movement to them while at the same time placing the viewer in a contemplative space which is part of the genius of Larrain.


“A good picture is born from a state of grace. Grace becomes manifest when one is freed from conventions, free as a child in his first discovery of reality. The game is then to organize the triangle.” SL


The production values for this book are high. A comfortable size, 30 x 22cm, it handles well and the reproductions are quite fine. Layout design is unfussy, serving the work well. There are a number of double page spreads but I must say minimal damage is done to the many images due to content and the very good binding. In short the book looks good, feels good and is good.


As well as the photographs we find out about the photographer from copies of handwritten letters and photocopies of notebooks and texts which goes into his philosophy of life. An essay by Gonzalo Leiva Quijada tracing his life rounds off his portrait.

This is a book I will treasure, and learn from in the years to come.
Sargio Larrain published by Aperture 2013

Sergio Larrain Retrospective Rencontres d’Arles France

My other books of the year are:-

  • INTO THE ORIENT by Marc Riboud. Editions Xavier Barral See Blog
  • ONE PICTURS AT A TIME by Gunnar Smolainsky. Steidl. My discovery of the year. Review to come.
  • GENESIS by Sebastiao Salgado. Tashen See Blog
  • SUDEK -THE LEGACY OF A DEEPER VISION. Hirmer Verlag. Got late 2012 but I’ll include it for 2013