Scanpix Stora Fotopris
An image from the nominated series "Lowlands" by Martin Bogren. Courtesy of Scanpix Stora Fotopris

Award for "best portrayal of Sweden"

5:03 min

Every year, photographers who have best captured the faces of Swedish contemporary society are nominated for the Scanpix Prize - and the award ceremony is the biggest event on the annual photo calendar.

Scandinavia's biggest picture agency awards the prize either to the photographer who best preserves the tradition of documentary photography, or to the photographer who pushes the stylistic boundaries of the genre to tell stories about Sweden.

Radio Sweden's Ann Törnkvist spoke to the three nominees.

On Wednesday the 23rd of November, hundreds of people will gather in Stockholm for the awards ceremony. This year's nominees could not be much different from each other.

Martin Bogren travelled far and wide, across the world and back, but returned home - not only to Sweden but to his childhood village which he once escaped - and that village, and its residents, came to inspire and to form his nominated photo series "Lowlands".

The second nominee is Lina Haskel. She spent five years documenting the interiors of "Folkets Hus" - the assembly halls built by the labour union movement which also became places for people to have fun. But these meeting houses are now struggling for survival.

And finally, Åke Ericsson has followed an injured Afghanistan veteran and his life here in Sweden where he requires constant care. He explains his photo series to Radio Sweden. "Pontus Hubinette was the first to come home injured from Afghanistan."

Hubinette is now paralyzed. One image shows him at home in the bathtub, his curled up hands resting on his bare chest, while the shadowy silhouette of his assistant spills out onto the white tiles behind them.
You are obviously working with someone in a very vulnerable situation. How do you approach someone for this kind of story?
It takes a long time, you cannot do it for a short time, and it's about trust, but it was important for me to do this story because the Swedish army treat him so bad from the beginning, they don't help him so much.
So the military did not want you to speak with him.
No, they did everything to stop me from contacting him from the beginning, that's correct.

The second nominee is Lina Haskel and she spent the past five years travelling to every corner of Sweden and documenting what is called "Folkets Hus" - or "the house of the people". These were assembly halls built by the labour union movement. But there was more than political meetings taking place here, they became dance halls, cinemas, and natural meeting places for communities.

The now nominated series chronicles interiors ranging from the modern to the staid. In one image, a stubbed out cigarette peaks out from a 1950's style ashtray, in another dark blue curtains hang in gently pleats, its sheer fabric barely hiding an empty conference room. Or one image where antlers hang above a copy machine.

The images are all devoid of persons. We asked Haskel why. "When you put a person in the picture it becomes a story about that person, I wanted to focus on the actual buildings," she says.
Were do you get your inspiration, do you have any favourite photographers?
I do but mainly my inspiration comes from other kinds of artists, like painters mostly I'd say... such as Edward Munch. In photography I mostly look outside Sweden: Walker Evans, Stephen Shore, Martin Parr."
Many of these are photographers work very much in colour. Is there a rapport, do you ever shoot in black and white?
Not so much any more.... I prefer to show the world as it is.

The final nominee is Martin Bogren. His opus of black and white images is what a layman would call moody and brooding. There are tire tracks deep in mud like scars in the landscape. Another depicts a young couple embracing, their bodies intertwined atop a hill, with the silhouette of the woman's arched back filtered through sun light.

He says, “Lowlands is the village where I grew up in the south of Sweden, which I wanted to leave when I was growing up, quite intensely. I travelled a lot as a photographer around the world but there is always this strange exoticism, so I wanted to do something closer to myself."

The project is currently showing at Stockholm's Fotografiska museum. But Martin Bogren doesn't want to speak too much detail about his artistic style. "I don't know if it helps me too much to analyse. Photography is a language and I think I've developed enough to express myself,"  he says.

Just like Åke Ericsson and Lina Haskel, he finds much of his inspiration outside photography. “Tom Waits is a hero for me, Bob Dylan....also the writing of Bob Dylan," he says.

For the winner there is the prize money of about 10,000 dollars awaiting them. We start with Martin Bogren and ask what he'd do with the money: "What will I do with the money.... I'd definitely put it into the next project."

We put the same question to his fellow nominees:

"I would like to invest them into my new project about the racism against Roma people in Europe," says Åke Ericson.

"Oh my God, actually, I mean there are always projects," says Lina Haskel.

Ann Törnkvist

For the audio clip of this piece the music was Gustavo Santaolalla's "Iguazu", Bob Dylan's "Lady of the Lowlands," and finally Depeche Mode's "Never let me down again"

For slideshows with the nominees' work visit


Our journalism is based on credibility and impartiality. Swedish Radio is independent and not affiliated to any political, religious, financial, public or private interests.
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