Where Travel + Street Meet. A personal and widespread look into the world of Street Photography. Learn about Street Photography and Travel the World through the eyes of Street Photography. Join me as I travel the world on different photography projects one city at a time.
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*A series of guides on shooting Street Photography in cities around the world. Find the best spots to shoot, things to capture, street walks, street tips, safety concerns, and more for cities around the world. I have personally researched, explored and shot Street Photography in every city that I create a guide for. So you can be […] The post City Street Guides by f.d. walker: </br>A Street Photography Guide to </br><b>Dhaka, Bangladesh</b> appeared first on...
*A series of guides on shooting Street Photography in cities around the world. Find the best spots to shoot, things to capture, street walks, street tips, safety concerns, and more for cities around the world. I have personally researched, explored and shot Street Photography in every city that I create a guide for. So you can be ready to capture the streets as soon as you step outside with your camera!
Dhaka is the densest and fastest growing city in the world. Known for its traffic, underneath that chaotic exterior is even more chaos, but also a city full of interest and charm. It might not be as equipped for visitors as many cities, but it is full of the most friendly, welcoming people around. No matter where you are are in Dhaka, there’s something going on. Filled with chaotic streets, markets, old world atmosphere, history, spirituality, and energy, you can’t get bored in Dhaka. While it’s a chaotic, photography friendly place like India, Dhaka brings its own Bangladeshi culture into the mix making it a unique experience all its own. If you’re adventurous, this big city will bring you one welcoming and memorable time with your camera.
Here’s a Street Photography guide so you can be ready to capture all that Dhaka has to offer you and your camera.
Old Dhaka is the heart of the city’s chaos and character. It doesn’t feel like too much has changed over the centuries here, with an atmosphere of crumbling homes, historic winding lanes and endless crowds of people. It’s extremely easy to got lost and you’ll find maps and navigation won’t help you out much, so getting lost is just what to do here. There’s a lot of area to explore too, with rickshaws being the transportation if you don’t always want to walk.
The busiest, and most interesting area for me, is by the Sadarghat. The Burgiganga river here at the Port of Dhaka is a sight to see, filled with a variety of boats, from small wooden rowboats to giant ferries. On the banks, the streets are even more crowded with porters unpacking produce and markets selling them. Sometimes you can’t even move here, but in the more open spaces it provides a very unique atmosphere. One that I picture in my memory of Dhaka as much as any place.
Shankharia Bazar, also called Hindu Street, is another recommended spot to check out in Old Dhaka for a different charm, more reminiscent of India. There’s also a district named Armanitola, where early colonial Armenians settlers came. Old Dhaka has many more spots to check out, but its best to just randomly find them on your own. It’s chaos and character around every corner with a very local feeling for street photography.
On the outside of Dhaka, just across the River Buriganga, you’ll find the Keraniganj Shipyard. This is definitely one of my favorite spots in Dhaka for photography, but I’m far from the only one as it’s a popular place for street photographers to come. I like unique places that you don’t find in other cities and this fits in that category. Around 15,000 workers are employed here, either busy breaking down gigantic shipping vessels or building them. Welding torches and hammers are seen and heard everywhere while you navigate through the obstacle course of ships and alleys. Many of the large ships are colorful, which when mixed with sunlight can create some interesting shadow and color play in photos. You should be respectful and careful where you walk due to all the work being done, but everyone is very friendly towards photographers. It’s a unique and fun place to explore with your camera. And an added bonus is the wooden boat ride you get to take crossing the river to get here. These rowboats give you a different perspective of the city, while navigating across the busy port.
A popular area for locals to hang out is around the University of Dhaka. The younger crowd loves to meet up here, but you’ll find all ages along the surroundings. The university itself is the oldest and highest ranked in Bangladesh. Not only is it respected for its prestigious status, but it has a long history deeply set in progressive movements, including the independence of Bangladesh. Today, it still is a center spot for politics. The elaborate campus provides a nice walk to explore, which includes museums and important sites, inside and close-by. Nearby, you’ll also find Ramna Park, with a lake and plenty of green space for relaxing or playing cricket. Along the main streets, pathways and open spaces, you can find busy local activity. As the day starts to cool off, it can get even busier. It’s a good central spot to come for guaranteed activity and a younger, vibrant vibe. From here, you can easily catch transportation to Old Dhaka too.
Karwan Bazar is a business and commercial district in Dhaka, but it’s also home to one of the largest wholesale markets not only in Dhaka, but also South Asia. The wholesale fruit and vegetable sections are some of the most chaotic and interesting, but you can explore this large area of market life for hours. With over one thousand shops in and around the market, you will find an endless variety of goods for sale too. Every night hundreds of trucks come to unload items for the day. It’s messy, busy and crowded with activity packing the streets, but it’s what makes Dhaka a special place. Nearby, you’ll also find the train tracks which are lined with life, including more street sellers. Walking the tracks here makes for an interesting and unique atmosphere too. The best time to explore this area of Karwan Bazar is early in the morning, though, when the action is really going.
Kamalapur Railway Station is the central railway station in Dhaka and largest in Bangladesh. It’s known for its unique design by American architect Robert Boughey, who also taught here. The shell shaped structure also provides outside cover for rain, making it a good spot to head to when the Dhaka weather isn’t cooperating for street photography, which can be often.
The railway station provides the activity you’d expect from such a busy hub, while also providing some interesting character. The green trains and windows themselves will attract many photographers capturing all the life they help frame, while walking the multiple platform gives you enough interest to make it a must stop. Outside railway platforms can be great for street photography with the light they provide for an active and interesting setting, and Dhaka’s is one of the better ones.
For a full day of Street Photography, covering some of the best spots, you can follow this sample street walk for Dhaka:
By some measurements, Dhaka is not only the most densely populated city in the world, but also the fastest growing. It definitely feels that way too. People are everywhere. Not just in the busy markets streets or city center, but in any street or neighborhood you go. I talk about traffic in the next section, but foot traffic fills the streets and alleys around every corner too. It’s hard not to compare Dhaka to many of India’s larger cities because there are similarities in the atmosphere, and the street life is one of them. People live outside and there’s enough people in Dhaka to make that outside life very chaotic. You won’t usually have much room to shoot, but you’ll have endless layers and interest to attempt to organize.
Dhaka, without question, has the worst traffic I’ve ever seen. People from big cities love to complain about the traffic, but I guarantee their city has nothing on this one. It’s no secret, though, as Dhaka has become known for it. Combine the densest population with the fast growing, and then add a severely lacking transportation system with only 7 percent of the city covered by roads, and it gives plenty of reason for all the traffic. Still, it doesn’t make it any less astonishing how slow it moves.
Not only does all that traffic add to Dhaka’s atmosphere, but it also means you really have to prepare your day around it and include many hours for traffic. The layout of the city doesn’t help, either, making places further apart. While there’s not too much you can do about it, leaving early in the morning is the best advice. Traffic doesn’t reach it’s norm until a little later in the morning so at least you can beat some of it. When it’s time to go back home, though, you’ll just have to deal with it. The Dhaka heat mixed with hours in a vehicle at least should help you catch some sleep.
I have to mention how my impressions of Dhaka are more influenced by the people than any other city I’ve been to. Bangladesh has recently gained a very strong passion for photography and it’s filled with photographers. The passion for photography currently seen here honestly rivals any place in the world. The street photography community, specifically, has become strong lately too, so I’ve had many connections in the city. More than that, though, they’re eager to welcome anyone to their city and show them all they can.
Be sure to check out these talented local photographers below:
*As always, no place is completely safe! So when I talk about safety, I’m speaking in general comparison to other places. Always take precaution, be smart, observe your surroundings and trust your instincts anywhere you go!
The people of Dhaka are extremely friendly and hospitable towards visitors, but unfortunately crime statistics do paint a different picture. Going off personal experience, it feels as safe as most any large city, but locals and data are something to listen to, especially at night. So, you should be cautious and street smart when exploring this densely packed city, but you’ll probably leave feeling a warm and safe experience.
Dhaka and Bangladesh bring similar reactions to photography as you might expect in India. In other words, very friendly and very curious. This means you can freely shoot here more than most places and you’ll only receive smiles, but you’ll also have to watch for spectators trying to pose their way into your photos. In a city that surrounds you with so much life, it’s an enjoyable experience being able to photograph anything you like without worry.
As mentioned earlier, prepare your day around hours in traffic and leave as early as possible in the morning.
As friendly as the people are, they do see money when they see a tourist. While this is common outside of the west, it’s especially bad here. Even stores regularly ask for more than the real price. I’ve shot in Dhaka with locals and just by them being seen with me, their price goes up too. It can actually be pretty entertaining, but it’s still money. It’s easy to call them out on it, though, especially at the stores. They’ll usually just laugh and give you the real price. You just have to know it. As for things like rickshaws, haggling skills are needed if you want a halfway fair price.
Even when Dhaka gets hot, and it gets real hot, it doesn’t always mean you’ll get much sunlight. Dhaka can bring a lot of clouds and haze due to the climate and pollution. This combines to take the light down quite a bit at times. The sun does come out sometimes, but I’d say around only 20% of my time here, which I was told isn’t out of the norm in Dhaka. You might notice that flash is popular with some of the well-known street photographers in Dhaka, and that’s partly because it can come handy to combat the bad light Dhaka can have.
The train station can be a good place to head when the clouds turn to rain, as it provides cover while still being outside with some light. It also can get pretty active and supply a variety of interest. Many of the local street photographers like to head there.
One of my favorite spots in Dhaka is the shipyard and one of my favorite memories is riding the rowboats across the river to get there and back. It’s a unique experience and sight I’d strongly recommend.
For some more inspiration, as I mentioned earlier, you can look through the work of local Dhaka street photographers:
And as always, you can check out 33 of my photos taken in Dhaka.
I hope this guide can help you go experience Dhaka… So grab your camera and capture all that Dhaka has to offer for Street Photography!
If you still have any questions about shooting in Dhaka, feel free to comment below or email me!
(I want to make these guides as valuable as possible for all of you so add any ideas on improvements, including addition requests, in the comment section!)
After covering Santo Domingo, came major city #65 Port-au-Prince, Haiti on the Major City project. I’ll be discontinuing this 33 photos series on the blog soon, but I’ll explain why along with exciting details on some new things I have planned in an upcoming post. For now, though, I’ll share a last few additions of this long-time series here […] The post 33 Street Photography Photos from Port-au-prince, Haiti appeared first on Shooter Files by f.d....
After covering Santo Domingo, came major city #65 Port-au-Prince, Haiti on the Major City project. I’ll be discontinuing this 33 photos series on the blog soon, but I’ll explain why along with exciting details on some new things I have planned in an upcoming post. For now, though, I’ll share a last few additions of this long-time series here on Shooter Files.
So here’s 33 photos from my time covering Port-au-prince…
For more info on Port-au-prince, be sure to check out my first impressions from a street photographer’s perspective. And stay tuned for one of my City Street Photography Guides to Port-au-prince.
Have you photographed Port-au-prince before or do you plan on it someday? Let me know about it in the comments below.
And let me know which photos you like best too!
The post 33 Street Photography Photos from Port-au-prince, Haiti appeared first on Shooter Files by f.d. walker.
I’m happy to share my photo series Limbo won First Place at the 2020 Italian Street Photo Festival. Below, is the winning series and I’m also in the works on making a zine of the full work connected to it. Thanks for looking and you can check out all the winners and finalists from the […] The post Limbo Series: First Place at Italian Street Photo Festival appeared first on Shooter Files by f.d....
I’m happy to share my photo series Limbo won First Place at the 2020 Italian Street Photo Festival. Below, is the winning series and I’m also in the works on making a zine of the full work connected to it. Thanks for looking and you can check out all the winners and finalists from the festival here:
The post Limbo Series: First Place at Italian Street Photo Festival appeared first on Shooter Files by f.d. walker.
Port-au-prince, Haiti came in as major city #65 on my Major City project and here I’ll share a few first impressions covering the city with my camera. Port-au-prince might not be a popular destination in the Carribean, but it’s been one that I’ve been interested in visiting ever since seeing the amazing work there by photographers like Alex Webb, Bruce Gilden […] The post 7 First Impressions of Port-au-Prince, Haiti</br> (From a Street Photography Perspective)...
Port-au-prince, Haiti came in as major city #65 on my Major City project and here I’ll share a few first impressions covering the city with my camera.
Port-au-prince might not be a popular destination in the Carribean, but it’s been one that I’ve been interested in visiting ever since seeing the amazing work there by photographers like Alex Webb, Bruce Gilden and Maggie Steber. It always felt like a complex place of beauty and devastation where vibrant life overcomes, like a rose from the cracks. While Haiti was once one of the richest countries in the Americas, it’s the poorest today. Walking the streets of Port-au-prince 10 years after their devastating earthquake can be surreal, as it still almost feels and looks like it happened yesterday. Crumbling buildings, rubble, trash and smoke fill many of the streets.
Port-au-prince shouldn’t be judged at first sight, though, because amidst all that, you’ll also find color, vibrance, character, energy, life and yes, beauty. It creates one of the more interesting and complex dynamics of any city I’ve covered. The city isn’t made for easy traveling, you have to be adventurous, but while it can seem intimidating at first, it ended up being one of the most friendly places I experienced all year. The streets are so full of life and contradiction, it’s hard to describe, but I’ll try.
Here are my first impressions of Port-au-Prince, from my personal Street Photographer perspective…
While Haiti has plenty of beautiful natural resources, it’s not currently a travel destination due to conditions. The few people that come visiting Port-au-prince work non-profits trying to help out. Although, it does have a few hotels and a small expat community in Pétion-Ville, it’s not built for visitors. At the same time, it has attracted many photographers due to its chaotic mix of beauty and horror, as Alex Webb once put it.
So, why did I include it on the project? One, because of all the amazing work I’d seen from other photographers, as previously mentioned, but also because it’s one of the largest cities in the Caribbean with a very unique history and culture. It fits as an important major city for the project and also gives unique representation that I felt was needed. I want to show as much of the world as possible within these 100+ major cities and Port-au-prince shouldn’t be left out.
I approach every city the same so my approach to Port-au-prince was different than most photographers. I’m not interested in focusing on negative and poor conditions. I’m not interested in hiding anything, either, but what I always want is to get to the core aspect of life in each city, despite the conditions. Haiti doesn’t have a great reputation for being camera friendly, but after talking to locals, this is mostly out of suspicion because they feel photographers come to exploit their conditions. I don’t know if they could see these weren’t my intentions or it’s just how well I was able to get along with everyone, but I honestly had less trouble photographing here than most places, which meant none to really speak of.
Reading about dangers in Port-au-prince online would be a bad idea. It’s made out to be like danger and crime awaits you around every corner and street. While it’s not the safest city statistically, even those stats aren’t as bad as the warnings. Santo Domingo, for example, is more dangerous statistically. As with any city I go to, I’ve committed to finding things out for myself, anyway. My personal experience exploring Port-au-prince on foot? Well, at first sight and feeling, it can be intimidating, but after a couple of days I was walking everywhere solo with my camera with little to no worry. I’ve been in dangerous places where I can feel the danger all around me, but I didn’t feel that here. You can feel vulnerable in the center, but that has more to do with the chaotic atmosphere than danger.
It might not look safe, but it feels safer than it looks and the people are friendly if you’re friendly to them. Serious looks turn to smiles, jokes and laughter when you carry yourself the same way. Much of the looks come from suspicion of your intentions and just the sheer rarity of seeing a foreigner walking around the city, especially alone. After getting a good read of the city, life and how to carry myself, I was walking all over the city. Over 20 km a day on foot, letting curiosity take the lead. Minus a few sketchy spots and interactions, I really felt no danger. The key here is to carry yourself confidently and respectfully, with a good amount of smiles. Walk like you aren’t worried and people lose suspicion and you don’t look like an easy target, either.
One observation I will mention is the lack of police presence. Minus a few police cars here and there, I saw less police presence here than any city I’ve covered. They must spend there time doing other things. At first this was a little worrisome walking everywhere alone, but ended up not being a problem from my positive experience.
Marché de Fer, which means Iron Market, is the biggest market in Port-au-prince. Many of Haiti’s cities have iron markets, but this is the original and largest. The large red structure with four domes and a clock was rebuilt after the earthquake so it really stands out amongst much of the crumbling buildings in Centre-ville. Iron work is very popular in Haiti, but you’ll find a lot more than that here. Traders from all over come here to sell everything imaginable, from produce to crafts. Inside is interesting, but not great for photography due to how dark it is. Outside the market, though, is where you can spend hours exploring the chaos with your camera. Endless surrounding streets are filled with traders and goods. It’s one of the largest, busiest and most interesting market areas I’ve been.
Now, this area of the city, considered the downtown, comes with many warnings online. Like most of the city, you won’t see many foreigners here, and the ones that do come are recommended to have a guide. After my first day here solo, though, I found no problem walking the streets alone. Yes, with crumbled buildings, burning garbage and people everywhere, it might be intimidating at first, but I found little danger in reality. I came here most days and walked every bit of the district back and forth without a single problem. You might get a little hassle and stares, but most of the time people are friendly if you are. You have to be comfortable and confident shooting here as some have problems with photos, but overall it was fine for me.
Maybe the most photogenic cemetery I’ve ever been, the Grand Cimetière de Port-au-Prince, did go through some troubling times following the 2010 earthquake. Not only with destruction, but also because the tombs became a shelter for many locals fleeing the earthquake. Today, there’s still a small population living inside the cemetery walls, but things have mostly been cleaned up, showcasing one of the most impressive and interesting cemeteries you’ll find anywhere. The colors and elaborate tombs provide a fascinating mix of Christianity and Vodou, giving a photogenic atmosphere of Haitian culture.
The cemetery is hundreds of years old and covers a wide area in downtown. You’ll find a mixture of pathways throughout, with the large tombs towering above. You’ll also find a good amount of activity and life here, not only due to the people that live and hang out here, but also to the number of funeral ceremonies that go on. These Haitian cultural celebrations involve large groups of family members and friends dressed in their best as they carry the casket down the pathways to lay them to rest. While sometimes you’ll see a couple people sadly mourning, most times it felt more like celebrating life with drinking and smiles. Most days I visited, at least one ceremony celebration went on. I wouldn’t normally visit a cemetery, but this one provides a very unique experience with life, culture, colorful backgrounds and the opportunity to observe something very interesting. If you look through the work of Alex Webb, Bruce Gilden or Maggie Steber in Haiti, they all made photos here too.
*While slightly eerie for some, the cemetery is safe, but I will mention one warning. While there should be no problem with you visiting and exploring the cemetery, there’s usually a few people standing by the entrance waiting to hassle. They want to be your cemetery guide for money and may even tell you it’s required for entrance when it’s not, but most will stop hassling you if you politely, but sternly refuse. On one occasion, a man wouldn’t stop hassling and following me around, saying I had to pay for his services or I had to leave, but that was the exception. Just something to be ready for if you go.
Pétion-Ville is a suburb of Port-au-Prince in the hills to the south. This is the area where most of the wealthy live, along with foreign diplomats and businessmen. Haiti has a tradition of visual arts and Pétion-Ville has become known for its arts and crafts, which you can find in galleries and sold all over the streets and walls. While Pétion-Ville is known as the richer area, you don’t feel it as much until you climb towards the top. Poorer locals have also migrated upward so you get a mix of atmosphere exploring the streets here. You’ll find streets packed with street sellers and locals moving in all directions just like you will in the center. You’ll also find multiple lots set up for markets and some very colorful streets great for street photography.
Once in Pétion-Ville, you can walk uphill on Rue Gregoire finishing at Place Saint-Pierre, a popular park. Pétion-Ville isn’t too big so make sure to explore the side streets too. The higher you get, the more wealthy it feels, but it also tends to get quieter, although there’s some nice views at the top and you can see the juxtaposition of the colorful shanties behind the expensive homes. My favorite part to spend more time is still around the bottom, where you get the most life, busy streets and mix of atmosphere.
Port-au-prince is spread out and transportation is needed if you want to see a variety of it. Unfortunately, they don’t have much of a transportation system. Fortunately, though, they do have “tap-taps.” Tap-taps are local public transportation in the form of pick-up trucks, buses and even a few large cargo vehicles. The buses and pick-up trucks are usually painted in elaborate, colorful designs with decorations, religious slogans, portraits of famous people and more. The wild designs really stand out and are a unique part of Port-au-prince’s scenery.
At first, I thought the name “tap-tap” was due to you tapping on the driver’s rear window when someone needs to stop, but later I learned it translates to “quick-quick.” Either way, I ended up using them for all my transport 3-4 times a day and actually enjoyed the experience. Foreigners tend to hire motorbikes or expensive taxis to get around and my whole time in Port-au-prince, I didn’t see one non-local use a tap-tap, other than myself. Maybe the local form of transportation can be intimidating, but I found no safety issues at all and at 10-15 gourd (15-25 u.s. cents) a ride, it’s much cheaper. It’s not particularly comfortable crammed together on the hard benches bouncing over potholes and rocks, but it gets you where you need to go and ends up being a very local experience. Many journeys ended up being eventful too. People talk and laugh with each other and the novelty of seeing me in there with them struck up some friendly conversations. I had no want for any other form of transportation in Port-au-prince and they ended up being one of the more memorable experiences during my time here.
*Personally, while they might look the least comfortable, I preferred riding in the smaller pick-up trucks the most. Haiti gets hot, especially packed with other people, and sitting in the truck beds at least lets some nice breeze in. And while the truck bed benches get crammed, they can’t cram the space in-between much like they do with the larger vehicles, which also have to stop many more times during the journey due to the extra passengers.
Port-au-prince can be an expensive city to visit. While conditions aren’t the best, you pay much more for things, especially basics for visitors. Lodging, food, and taxis are all higher priced here than most cities. This is due to a few reasons. When it comes to lodging, there aren’t many options so the hotels available charge a premium. When it comes to food, over 70% of goods have to be imported, which also puts a premium on most items. This is especially noticeable at the grocery store. And for taxis, locals don’t use them, so expats and visitors get the foreigner premium added.
There are ways to save money, though. I stayed at Haiti Communtiere, where I slept in a bunk bed outside in a shared dome tent. The space had cold showers, bathrooms, a kitchen and shared space outside, but it was very basic. While this still was kind of expensive considering the conditions, it was cheaper compared to other options. There’s not much you can do about groceries, but you can get buy eating simpler during your time here, like I did (I lost at least a couple pounds during my stay). And transportation is the easiest way to save money, just travel like the locals and take tap-taps.
If any of you have been to Port-au-Prince before, tell me about your experience and impressions of the city and country in the comments below! And stay tuned for more on Port-au-Prince, including some of the best Street Photography shots I captured while there.
(from a street photographer’s perspective)
After Izmir and a stop at the Brussels Street Photography Festival, came major city #64 Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic on the Major City project. I’ll be discontinuing this 33 photos series on the blog soon, but I’ll explain why along with exciting details on some new things I have planned in an upcoming post. For now, though, I’ll share […] The post 33 Street Photography Photos from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic appeared first on Shooter Files by f.d....
After Izmir and a stop at the Brussels Street Photography Festival, came major city #64 Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic on the Major City project. I’ll be discontinuing this 33 photos series on the blog soon, but I’ll explain why along with exciting details on some new things I have planned in an upcoming post. For now, though, I’ll share a last few additions of this long-time series here on Shooter Files.
So here’s 33 photos from my time covering Santo Domingo…
For more info on Santo Domingo, be sure to check out my first impressions from a street photographer’s perspective. And stay tuned for one of my City Street Photography Guides to Santo Domingo.
Have you photographed Santo Domingo before or do you plan on it someday? Let me know about it in the comments below!
And let me know which photos you like best too!
The post 33 Street Photography Photos from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic appeared first on Shooter Files by f.d. walker.
* “Master Profiles” is a series profiling all the great photographers of uncontrolled life. Unlike the rest of the blog, I’m doing these in a straight profile format to make it easy for quick access to facts, quotes and knowledge on all the masters. I’ll also group them together here every time I add a new one. Profile: Lars Tunbjörk (1956-2015) […] The post Master Profiles: Lars Tunbjörk appeared first on Shooter Files by f.d....
* “Master Profiles” is a series profiling all the great photographers of uncontrolled life. Unlike the rest of the blog, I’m doing these in a straight profile format to make it easy for quick access to facts, quotes and knowledge on all the masters. I’ll also group them together here every time I add a new one.
Lars Tunbjörk (1956-2015)
Swedish photographer known for his colorful, quirky and surreal images of everyday absurdity from surburbia to the office.
Born: February 15th, 1956 in Borås, Sweden
Born in Boras, Sweden, Lars Tunbjörk was influenced by Swedish photographer Christer Stromholm and American photographer William Eggleston. At 15, Tunbjörk started taking photographs for his local newspaper Borås Tidning, soon freelancing for the national newspaper Stockholms-Tidningen, and later for Swedish newspapers like Aftonbladet and Dagens Nyheter. The fine art photography world first recognised his work with the Swedish Picture of the Year award for a black and white documentary picture of Swedish everyday life. While starting in black and white, he switched to color photography, which became something he explored in the style of 1970’s American photographers. His home of Boras and Sweden also influenced his work heavily, as he created images showcasing its lifestyle quirks.
He also began focusing on his own documentary work covering the oddities he found with his unique eye for the absurd and surreal in Sweden. Surburbia, commercial stores, office spaces and more were some of his favorite environments to photograph these aspects of life that many could both laugh at and relate to. His work also focused on vivid colors using flash to really bring out the surreality of his scenes and combine with his witty content to bring a signature look and feel to his photos. Much of it raising questions and smiles at the quirkiness and interest he was able to find from day-to-day life.
Speaking to The New York Times in 2011, Tunbjörk said: “Especially in my older work, I was looking for strange, absurd situations, going on endless tours to festivals, campgrounds, and shopping centres. If I found an interesting place, I could stand there for hours, waiting. I often get asked if my pictures are staged. They are not.”
Tunbjörk’s work made him one of the most influential visionaries in contemporary color photography. Some of his most known projects were Office, his unique take photographically on office spaces in New York, Tokyo and Stockholm, and I Love Boras, a quirky and humorous look at life in his hometown.
After a history of heart attacks, Tunbjörk suddenly passed in 2015 at the age of 59. TIME’s Deputy Director of Photography Paul Moakley wrote in his obituary: “Lars made you feel like you weren’t alone and that someone else understood the great abyss that stands before us”.
During his lifetime, Tunbjörk had ten photo books published, including Office, published by the Journal Editions in 2002, Home, published by the Steidl Editions in 2003, Vinter, copublished with the Musée d’Art Moderne de Stockholm by the Steidl Editions in 2007, I Love Boras, published by the Steidl Editions in 2007, and Every Day, published by the Diaphane Editions in 2012.
His last exhibition took place in Toulouse in 2013, where Lars Tunbjörk presented I Love Boras, Office and Vinter. His photographs can be found in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Centre Pompidou and the Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris. Tunbjörk was a member of Agence Vu and worked for The New York Times Magazine, Time, GEO, and others.
Tunbjörk is known for his medium format color film photography and he mainly used the Mamiya 7, a 6×7 medium-format rangefinder, along with a flash, like a Lumedyne, as a fill light to bring out the vivid colors and add to the surreal look.
“I want to be a stranger. I want to look at [things] a little bit from a distance and with a critical eye, concentrating on this mad theater…”
“I try to take photos like an alien, or a small child.”
“When I photograph now, I try to imagine that I’d never seen a place like this before.”
“I try to work with a quite objective, critical, and humorous eye on the world.“
“Especially in my older work, I was looking for strange, absurd situations, going on endless tours to festivals, campgrounds, and shopping centres. If I found an interesting place, I could stand there for hours, waiting. I often get asked if my pictures are staged. They are not.”
“…I photographed a lot of empty interiors: welfare offices just after family therapy, empty reception rooms. I noticed that even after the people left, a feeling of them stayed in the room, a sense of sadness.”
“Everything gets filtered through the artist’s eyes.”
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