NEW YORK, NY.- Pace/MacGill Gallery
presents Christer Strömholm, a selection of vintage gelatin silver exhibition prints by the Swedish photographer. Featuring portraits of the Parisian transgender community from Strömholms signature series, Les Amies de Place Blanche (1958-68), alongside images from his expeditions to France and Spain, the exhibition marks the premier presentation of the artists work at the gallery and will be on view from January 7 through February 20, 2016.
Revered as the father of Scandinavian photography, Christer Strömholm (1918-2002) and his contributions to the history of the medium remain relatively unknown to audiences outside of Europe. Born in Stockholm, Strömholm discovered the expressive possibilities of photography via the graphic arts in the late 1940s and worked almost exclusively in black and white throughout his career. As co-founder and director of Stockholms legendary Fotoskolan academy from 1962 to 1974, he served as an influential educator and mentor to over 1,200 students, including many of todays leading Swedish photographers like J.H. Engström, Dawid (Björn Dawidsson), Anders Petersen, and Lars Tunbjörk. The first presentation of his work, To the memory of myself, for which the photographs on view were printed, was held at NK department store in Stockholm in 1965, but it was not until his 1986 exhibition, 9 Seconds of My Life, at the Moderna Museet that Strömholm received recognition by the broader public.
A lifelong traveler, Strömholm lived in Paris intermittently during the late 1950s and early 1960s, where he developed his distinct style of street photography and produced his acclaimed series of portraits of the transgender community in the heart of the citys red-light district, Place Blanche. Befriending and living alongside the ladies of the night, Strömholm documented the daily lives (mostly night lives) of young transgender males, struggling to live as women and raise money for sex-change operations by illicitly working as prostitutes under Charles de Gaulles conservative jurisdiction.
Taken in the nocturnal settings of hotel rooms, street corners and bars using only the existing light, Strömholms intimate black and white portraits raise profound issues about identity, self-expression, sexuality and, perhaps most importantly, camaraderie. His sympathetic and accepting approach to image-making resulted in glamorous yet gritty portrayals of his subjects that are truly a tribute to the Place Blanche residents. As Strömholm wrote in his book of the series, which was published in 1983 and quickly garnered notoriety:
This is a book about insecurity. A portrayal of those living a different life in the big city of Paris, of people who endured the roughness of the streets....This is a book about the quest for self-identity, about the right to live, about the right to own and control ones own body.... These are images of people whose lives I shared and whom I think I understood. These are images of women biologically born as men that we call transsexuals. As for me, I call them my friends of place Blanche." This friendship started here, in the early 60s and it still continues.
Strömholms photographs are represented in institutional collections around the world, including the Centre Pompidou, Paris; the International Center of Photography, New York; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum Folkwang, Essen; and The Museum of Modern Art, New York. In 1993, the Swedish Department of Culture accorded Strömholm the title of Professor of Photography and he received the Erna and Victor Hasselblad Foundation International Photography Prize in 1997. His Place Blanche portraits were the subject of the 2012 exhibition, Christer Strömholm: Les Amies de Place Blanche, at the International Center of Photography, which was the first presentation of Stromholms work in an American institution.