Refricater, by Christer Järeslätt ISBN: 978 91 976 912 22
Excerpt of texts from the book by Christer Järeslätt, Carl Johan De Geer and Lilith Waltenberg (translated from Swedish):
Manipulated photographs. An idea as old as the discovery of photography’s impact on truth. The reasons for manipulating are many. To hide or improve the truth. To flatter or ridicule. To clarify. To erase borders and create illusions. Choosing photography as the medium suggests that the message has a relation to reality. Documentary photography purists have major problems in interpreting manipulated photographs. The manipulated pictures contradict the reality in photographs, and have therefore been avoided. Manipulated photographs have been referred to as being part of the free arts in terms of experimental photography and photo-based art. But from a scientific point of view, there is a particular interest in photographs that have undergone some sort of processing, regardless of written comments or deleted details. A postcard from the turn of the century becomes more interesting with a message on the back. When a totalitarian regime manipulate official documents by erasing comrades who have fallen into disfavor, the images become documents that in a subtle way uncover what should not be told…//…From a purely documentary point of view, these manipulated photographs contain more information about the circumstances of the image than if the photograph was ever so beautifully printed and free of defects. At least as long as the viewer knows that the image is or may be manipulated. This is also the basic idea behind these pictures, providing more information than just a classic straight portrait is capable of. This is a non-forgiving way of working and the pictures reveal the cartoonist’s unprocessed true handicraft in drawing. The method lacks the possibility to erase, there is no backstroke. The etched line, directly engraved in the negative, is irreversible. The knowledge that the image is going to be manipulated also creates pressure on me as a photographer. It requires me to deliver a foundation that is possible to further develop in a situation where one usually strives for an as compressed and complete expression as possible. Here somewhere the boundaries between the disciplines are blurred and the cooperation results in an image where both working methods and ideas merge.
Carl Johan De Geer and Marianne Lindberg De Geer watch as Joakim Pirinen carve his portrait at the Book Fare in Göteborg.
The trip to Retrograd …On February 8, 2008, Polaroid Company announced its intention to immediately end the production of instant film. The inventor and genius Edwin Herbert Land, born 1909 and holder of about 500 patents for rapid development chemistry, died in 1991 and didn’t live to see the end of the Polaroid era, which was inevitable; Structural changes in the photo industry can not be slowed down. Almost all photo shops are closed. Digital photography has taken over not only movie recordings but all of the industry…//…My old polaroid cameras, with which I produced huge amounts of toxic garbage, can “be used only as book support”, I read in an article. No, they do not even do that; they are too light. But … there is a resistance movement. Sometimes it is called “Polanoir”, sometimes “Save Polaroid, Save the World”. And there are photographers who want to return to the past, who sees an aesthetic value in one of Polaroid’s most odd products: the 4×5 sheet film that gives both a positive image and a real negative. I myself have experimented with this. In the early 1970s I had an old large-format camera with polaroid back. I took some self-portrait but found the technique too impractical. Now I have encountered a few individuals drawn to this impractical medium…//…Christer has photographed cartoonists, a lot of them, and then let them scratch with sharp objects in the wet negatives to complement the portrayal with personal additions. The result is striking and the whole idea is unmatchedly clever. For example, Nina Hemmingsson has used the negative and the positive in a telling way. If you remove the emulsion it will be black, and white if you cover a surface. Her comic characters have those empty eyes and often reside around thorny trees…//…Christer’s trip to retrograd is lovely! fatal! Refreshing! Modernity is nothing to strive for, if you thought so.
– Carl Johan De Geer
Max Andersson and Lars Sjunnesson carving the first ever Refricaters at a bar in Berlin 2001.
It started in Berlin. “…In the fall of 2001, Christer Järeslätt and I, a reporter at the Swedish newspaper Sydsvenskan, traveled from Malmö, to Berlin to meet some of the fast growing young population of Nordic culture workers who recently moved to this big european capital of culture. Together we had come up with a list of about ten names to be presented in a series of feature articles in the newspaper. I was concentrated on the artists and art dealers from Sweden I knew before. At the top of Christer’s list there were two of Sweden’s leading cartoonists; Lars Sjunnesson and Max Andersson. The two were among the first Swedish culture workers who saw Berlin as an alternative to Sweden. In the addition to a creative environment – it was possible to find both housing and a studio easily and cheaply…//…Max Andersson and Lars Sjunnesson had installed themselves in one of the most classic of Berlin’s working class districts; Friedrichshain, where some of the bloodiest struggles between Socialists and Nazis were in the 1920s and 1930s. Still in the autumn of 2001, Friedrichshain wore signs of its ancient history, with more or less decayed factories, shabby coal-fired housing and an infinite amount of small, smoke filled taverns…//…The interview started in Lars Sjunnesson’s kitchen over a few beers, and continued at a local bar. Now’s when Christer gets his idea and begins to photograph with his polaroid camera and asks the cartoonists, standing at the overcrowded bar, to draw directly on the polaroid negatives with a common ballpoint pen…”
– Lilith Waltenberg
From the making of the Refricate of filmmaker and cartoonist Per Åhlin. Photo: © Jimmy Wallin