About Christer Järeslätt…
18 years old I started my photography business, and since then I’ve considered myself a photographer. I’ve done anything from studio work to press photography, commercial and editorial. Produced numerous exhibitions, books, artistic projects and multimedia presentations. Taught classes in Photoshop, analogue techniques and Art/Documentary/Photography studies.
I have a bachelors degree in Photography and studied Journalism at the University of Göteborg, Sweden.
(fairly chronological résumé)
The early years…
Maybe it was a coincidence that I got stuck with photography. During my childhood, I had spent a lot of time drawing and had several school sweaters and event-posters on my conscience. My parents supported a certain amount of artistic activities. They appreciated, foremost my technical drawings and constructions. Probably they saw a future for me as an engineer or architect. When I was fourteen years old, it was time to get a summer job and my parents knew that a neighbor ran some kind of business and urged me to go and ask him for a job. It turned out that he ran a professional photo lab with two employees and didn’t mind an extra hand helping out during the summer. The first summer was mostly about cutting pictures, sorting the mail, fixing coffee, etc. But also assisting during photo assignments. I learned quickly to handle large format cameras, load Hasselblad film backs and how to develop color film, how to work a studio flash and setting the light. The first summer’s salary was received in the form of an SLR camera. I got hooked on Landscape photography, and after reading Ansel Adams series; The Camera, The Negative and The Print, managing the black and white photographic material became a goal. I already had all technical equipment I could ever need in the lab. I mixed photo chemicals directly from old recipes, and learned what effects temperature, pH, hardness and combinations of different chemicals had on film and paper. I measured with densitometers and visualized the result. I used the landscape as subject to experiment and confirm my skills. At first, since I was only 15, the landscape in my immediate vicinity, i.e. what could be reached by bike. The horizons widened when I got my driving license and it became easier to get to places. Finally I had covered the whole of Halland. The project lasted from 1978 to 1987 with some complementary shots in 1995.
I exhibited almost 100 photographs from the huge material in 2001 at the Art Museum in Halmstad. Since then, the pictures have never been shown publicly.
I could not completely let the drawing and painting go, and when it was time to apply for university, I primarily sought educational programs in graphic design. I was not accepted, so I decided to apply to a preparatory art school.
By this time I primarily saw photography as a way of documenting the world. A technical and precise medium that could be mastered by measurements and formulas, mathematics and physics. I devoted my creative energy on other media. What made me start working with photography at the art school was mainly that no one else did. It became my way of separating me from the others. My way of standing out.
In 1987 I was admitted to the Academy of Photography in Göteborg.
I remember the interview with Per LB Nilsson, who told me my application pictures ”were totally uninteresting to him, but I’d received high score with others and would most likely be admitted”. This is the man that I later chose to be my main mentor… The school was placed in an office floor above a parking garage in an industrial area in Mölndal, a suburb to Göteborg – an environment that did not exactly boost creativity but demanded discipline and dedication to go there at all. There were 60 students attending school and those were the people you hung out with. Since school lay as a forgotten satellite on the outskirts of the city, close bonds were formed among the students and quite a few intimate relationships commenced and a lot of intrigues arose. I’ve never had any talent for socializing and often kept myself out of the way. I sometimes kept a clear distance, which was certainly perceived by the others.
pictures from the group exhibition ”Stål och Fjärilar”, Göteborgs Konstmuseum, 1990.
But it was not just in socialising I kept a distance, I also had difficulties with the school’s rigid construction and extreme focus on technical courses in the first year, knowledge I already had achieved by myself, and therefore the education seemed to be dubious in my eyes. I had other expectations in a photo education at university level. I tried to get the opportunity to shift courses, move up an annual course, or exchange technical courses against courses at the Art and Craft School, which belonged to the same faculty, but got a “no”, and decided to leave school. The principal Gunilla Knape persuaded me to take a sabbatical year instead, which would turn out to be a wise move. I returned to work at a photo lab, where I became responsible for the photomontage department and worked a year before my artistic ambitions reappeared and I returned to the Painting School in Halmstad and the teacher Olle Waller. During this time I also made several trips in Europe and my photography was heavily influenced by using a Leica and Tri-X.
I bought my first Leica from a third year student at Fotohögskolan in 1987. He had several, but I settled for an M4-P. I also bought a Summicron 35 lens and later a 50mm.
This camera grew into my right hand as a part of my body and I didn’t’t let go of it until 2001 when I bought my M6 in Hong Kong. Though I never have developed the same feelings for that camera…
With the M4-P my pictures started to look different and I was now a part of the great myth of ”a lonesome serious young man traveling through Europe with his Leica”…
A workshop in painting and drawing at Gerlesborgsskolan in Bohuslän renewed my interest in merging expressions from painting into my photographic work.
Chris Killip arrived during my third semester at Fotohögskolan. He sent a theme for us to work with prior to the workshop – ”Family life”. He said I had interpreted the task too literally, and pointed me in the way of William Eggleston. It was the beginning of several months of photobook-studies in the library, which led to a much deeper understanding of photography. I wouldn’t hesitate in saying Killip had the most important part of my development as a photographer. Not only with his own work but also by introducing me to most of the photographers who’s work I today see as my main source of inspiration. Just prior to Killip I had a workshop with Håkan Elofsson who forced me into working with colorfilm in a more conscious way. I’d say he’s the reason I still prefer working in color today.
My first attempts at Light-painting, shot in a pitch-black studio, resulted in a series of self-portraits that turned into some kind of Crucifixes. These were enlarged into altars and displayed in an exhibition at Göteborg Konsthall. Both the big prints and the 4×5’’ negatives have sadly been lost, but i still have some small prints. From the exhibition ”Förvåningarnas Våning”, Göteborgs Konsthall, 1991.
From the examination exhibition, 1992.
In 1992 I was one of 5 former students from Fria Målarskolan in Halmstad who were chosen to create artworks for a new housing-complex in central Halmstad. I was the only photographer and I wanted to find ways to migrate the photographic expression to more durable materials. I transferred one of my pictures to a graphic painting by manually outlining a projected black and white slide on adhesive film.
My ”Power Flower” project haunted me for quite some time, although I had already dismissed it in the paper for my Bachelor exam. I realized that I had reached a dead-end, and felt most of my different approaches were all but a strained variation of the original work. Still, the pictures and their appreciation placed them as a permanent installation in a residential house in Halmstad. I also started two different projects with two individual potters using the stylized pictures as artwork on porcelain and ceramics. Both projects were terminated before they hit the market. Although one of the potters received a prize for ”the year’s most innovative artwork on ceramics”…
In connection with my work with public art for residential housing I rented a large studio together with the other commissioned artists in an old closed factory building in Halmstad. It used to be Matador – the manufacturer of razors and blades. Hence the Studio Matador, and later the Galleri Matador was created.
At the time I was studying a complimentary project-year at Fotohögskolan in Göteborg, right after receiving my Bachelor. This was a complicated year and I deconstructed my photographs by painting on them, doing collages and made them into objects.
The complimentary course was supposed to result in the completion of a chosen work. I showed three different themes of unfinished work. My mentor Henning Hansen didn’t approve my efforts and I didn’t receive my university points until years later.
In January 1991, Operation Desert Storm was launched by allied US, British, French and Italian forces. They attacked Iraq and I worked the nightshift at the Göteborgsposten newspaper. The paper had rigged a camera facing the TV and the night-photographer was responsible for watching and photographing television pictures when the war broke out because the paper had no contracted photographer present in Iraq at the time. This somewhat odd assignment was the beginning of a series of projects where I examined screenshots – the fictional reality screen shots presented as an important part of people’s perceptions.
I deciphered, dissected and tried to decode its special aesthetics.
One of these unfinished projects was exhibited at ”Fabriken” in Göteborg which ended the ”project-year” at the Academy of Photography.
Sometimes certain ways to take pictures are born through a combination of a particular camera and a specific film. With a 4×5’’ Field Camera and Polaroid 55 film I started shooting portraits of friends. The Polaroid film changed the game and enticed me to use the camera handheld with a Metz-strobe to meet the increased need for light. This method was later used for commissioned work – the last time in 2006, when Polaroid already had terminated the production of instant film, in my portrait series Refricater.
In 1993, the play ”Heart of Darkness” was set up in Slottsmöllan’s old factory premises in Halmstad by Director Ulf Andersson. I attended the premiere and it made a lasting impression on me – especially the scenography that the artist Mikael Ericsson had made. I was inspired to use the settings and build my own story, so I contacted Ulf and received permission to take photographs one hour before the next performance.
I directed the cast for the photographs that I later used for an exhibition called ”Hyr ett rum” presented in Galleri Matador, Halmstad 1995. It was an installation with a tent in the middle of a dark room. In the tent was a lamp, a table with an old typewriter and a deconstructed (chopped up) map of the world loosely and partly arranged in a new fashion, forming new continents and seas. The dark walls had thin drawings and small boxes with holes for the eyes, and included some dimly lit photographs inside. At the entrance visitors were handed a flashlight.
Göteborg 1993 and Tokyo 2002.
”Inventory” – a series of pictures from the homes of my friends. I got their keys and let myself in while they were at work, and started to document the traces from their lives.
Helikopterseende / Comprehensive View. 1994
In 1997, when I studied journalism in Gothenburg University, I sent an e-mail to a student at the Valand University of Fine Art to suggest a joint project where we would attempt to learn as much as we could about each other, without meeting. At the university we studied the principle of public access to official records, and this helped me to investigate the public information available about her. I soon compiled the public image of her. What remained was to map her life, friends and enemies, her interests and habits. I began to stalk her from morning to evening. She, on her part, hired a private investigator to follow me…
Lebensraum, Pleasantville and Countryside, these projects are highly connected to each other. Not only where they initiated almost at the same time, two of them; Lebensraum and Countryside are very long-lived and are still being updated. Lebensraum, naturally since it feeds on my life. Countryside, because I’m still living in relation to the subject. Pleasantville, on the other hand, is a finished project, but it’s had a major influence on the other ones, and even been a catalyst to much of later works. I still look upon them as separate body’s of work, but won’t be surprised if they at some point melt together. It’s really a matter of point of view.
Ever since I became father for the first time I’ve felt restrained and restricted. Particularly so with my mobility and the ability to follow the tiniest whim. Although at first this restraint and restriction felt like a nuisance, over time it slowed me down enough to allow me to look at all there was in my immediate proximity. Today I have three children, and I have had three such periods in my photography. Merged together in the project ”Lebensraum”.
Around 2003 my parents moved back to the city where they were born. They chose a neighborhood with villas and chain houses built in late 1950s to late 1960s, and walking in the area for the first time, I found keys to my parents esthetic taste, and the visual expression of the values I was fed as a child. Some clues to what I’ve been running from.
The area reaped of impressions and traces of the Swedish welfare state soon to reach it’s peak. Frozen in time as if the area was a museum for true Swedish values never to be questioned. It was horrifying, and yet housed only people with a happy surface. I started to photograph Pleasantville.
Countryside started as a personal comment to the ”Halland” project. The fuel for that project was an urge to master black and white chemistry to perfection, and thus more of an artisan approach than an artistic one. This time I tried something different. I chose colour, and like the painter, blurred out areas who’s main subject was colour to guide the eye to certain details in the picture.
Since I was living in Malmö the geographical epicenter now had moved to Skåne.
During many years I was working as a press photographer for some of Sweden’s leading newspapers. At first it was an amazing job, with a lot of benefits. Sadly the publishing industry faced a massive crisis some years into my career and work became more and more repetitive as resources became scarce. In my time as a press photographer the matter of personal integrity became ever so present, and I thought a lot about representation. I started to collect some of my press photos to investigate the theme ”public integrity”.
In 2008 I visited Tokyo and the Swedish Embassy with my Refricater exhibition. I spent two weeks in the city and I bought a small Casio digital pocket camera which I used mostly for making short video-clips that were later used in the ToYuko exhibition. I took some ”snaps” and really liked the minor size and obscurity with which the pictures could be taken. New opportunities and different expressions arose and I began to use this camera extensively at home for personal shots.
In 2011 I received a residency grant from Swedish Association of Professional Photographers (SFF) To spend a week in The Swedish House in Kavala, Greece.
I photographed this sleepy, off seasoned, small town constantly day and night for the whole week and learned to love the cheapest Retsina at the same time. I collected the material in a print-on-demand book: The Town, the House and the Cross.