Jan Svenungsson

"The Perfect Photograph" unpublished translation of article for Bulletin från Moderna Muséet, # 4, 1994

Together, the grains, highlights and shadows of a photographic image construct a credibility which stretches far beyond the surface of the image. This, the photograph's ability to convince is not solely dependent on the elements of the picture and their relation to the subject, but also on technical factors, or can even be born out of the photographer's mistakes.

The understanding, that the experience of a photograph can be influenced by factors outside of its relation to the subject was my point of departure when I started to work with photography in 1986.

At first I mainly re-photographed already existing images. I used black and white film and put my prints in specially designed frames. When I began to tire of always having to "discover" new images, I found in the summer of 1988 a brick smoke stack in Stockholm which I decided could be a suitable subject for my "own" photographs.

For four years I exploited this rather expressionless subject. Full of curiosity I tried different methods of transforming the picture; focused or blurred, day or night, damaged film; but I refrained from using color. I thought of my photographic works, my photo objects, as being opaque, i.e. that they did not function as windows on reality, but rather as mirrors of the beholder's own ideas.

In August 1992 I built together with two bricklayers a 10 m high brick smoke stack outside Moderna Museet in Stockholm.

When construction was completed and the site cleared I had only one morning to photograph my piece for the exhibition catalog. This time my aim was to execute a perfect representation of the subject. I went to work in a very concentrated manner. And I was successful in my ambition.

The photograph opens like a window towards the reality I have constructed.

On Friday the 16th of September, 1994 the Stockholm smoke stack was dismantled as planned.

(translation JS/Lars Werdelin)