The Mystery & Ambiguity of Christer Strömholm

Pigalle Square Christer Stromholm

left + right: Foire de Pigalle, Paris, 1955*

Originally published in 1967, Poste Restante has become one of the most collectible photography books from the mid-twentieth century, ranking alongside the better known publications of Robert Frank and Ed van der Elsken. Strömholm’s photographic autobiography details his extensive travels across the globe in a book constructed as an Existentialist diary. Juxtaposing the urbane and the macabre, combining portraiture and street scenes with abstract photographic fragments, the book uses metaphor and visual pun in an unrelenting stream of consciousness. In its sequence and design it is a book which pre-figures much of contemporary photographic publishing and art practice.


left: Jacky with dog, Paris, circa 1950 right: Cobra, Paris, circa 1960**


left: Stockholm, 1976 right: Merciful sisters, 1976***


left: Ingalill, Paris, 1979 right: The Kiss, Paris, 1962****

Poste Restante by Christer Strömholm will be available this April by Steidl books.

* Pigalle - The show occupies an essential place in the work of Christer Strömholm who photographs cinema and theater posters and produces a series on the Pigalle square. He likes fixing his attention on the spectators who introduce new points of view and invites us to imagine scenes beyond the picture.
** Place Blanche, 1956-1962 - The series Place Blanche, created between 1956 and 1962, is dedicated to the transvestites and the transsexuals of this Parisian district. Strömholm does not pose his models in the nude. Never a Peeping Tom, he knows how to protect mystery and ambiguity.
*** Polaroïds , 1976 - About twenty Polaroids created by Strömholm in 1976 present the assemblies of images and objects and constitute so many visual plays on words that reveal the profound influence of surrealism on Strömholm.
**** Paris - It is by the end of the 40’s, at the college of Beaux-Arts in Paris, that Christer Strömholm dedicates himself completely to photography. Far from the humanism of Doisneau or decisive moment of Cartier-Bresson, he develops a subjective and eclectic photography that refuses any anecdote and any hierarchy among the subjects. In addition to portraits stolen from the street, he multiplies the photos of objects. Strange and ghastly rubbish, these last ones return to the surrealist found object and evoke the recovery of the new realists to whom Strömholm was close.