Photographer Sune Jonsson was one of the most important documenters of 1960s rural Sweden at a time when industrialisation dawned. A field ethnologist as well as photographer, Jonsson observed and captured this period of Sweden's transformation with
Photographer Sune Jonsson was one of the most important documenters of 1960s rural Sweden at a time when industrialisation dawned. A field ethnologist as well as photographer, Jonsson observed and captured this period of Sweden's transformation with great insight, imbuing his subjects with a certain awareness of time's swift-moving passage. A new, aptly named exhibition, And Time Becomes a Wondrous Thing, showcases a momentous and little-seen collection of such works taken in his home county of Västerbotten (including ones from his acclaimed 1959 publication The Village with the Blue House), as well as others that illustrate his long and influential trip to New York and the 1968 Prague uprising.
"Sune Jonsson observed and captured 1960s rural Sweden at a time when industrialisation dawned"
Jonsson's rural images encapsulate the spirit of a dying age where people lived and worked off the land, engaging in traditional farming methods and old-fashioned pursuits which now, just fifty years on, seem worlds apart from the modern-day, urban lifestyle which has replaced them. Aside from their historical value, what makes the photographs so enthralling is the strong narrative thread that underlies them – the figures appear to have been caught unaware in their various activities and yet there is often a sense of fairytale-esque characterisation that sets the imagination whirring (such as the portrayal of the newly-wed couple dancing in a yard, subdued and alone). In his American images, we see the distinct mark made on Jonsson by the American Farm Security Administration photographers, especially Walker Evans, in their reporting of the great depression of the 1930s; as a result of this his later Swedish works are notably more melancholy depictions of the community in which he lived and worked.
Also included in the display is a presentation of the work of three contemporary Scandinavian photographers who have taken up Jonsson's mantel: Elin Berge, Martin Borgen and Elin Høyland.
And Time Becomes a Wondrous Thing is at the PM Gallery & House from now until January 7 2012.
Text by Daisy Woodward