About Mikael Lundberg’s Photos
When I was a young boy, I lived in a small one floor house. Similar houses and beautiful gardens were all around. One day we heard of a guy who would hang around at nights and look through the windows of other houses. The fear spread among the children. Adults tried to explain and assure us, that he wasn’t dangerous and did nothing except watched people through the windows. But they were not sure about that themselves, so our fear was still there. We all had a question- why? Watching people is somebody’s practice…What did that mean? How did I imagine that man? In my mind, he was a little sad guy. In his behavior I didn’t see anything abnormal, except a longing for something.

These memories come to me when I look at series of Mikael Lundberg’s pictures’ “xxx”. Nostalgia. A question. But if these pictures raise questions about nostalgia and observations, then logically, they raise questions about photography as well. Mikael Lundberg’s study is not problematic, as it is not photography.

Today that man from my childhood, watching through the windows, looks strangely modern. Today all of us are voyeurs. Our society and our ideals are related to observing others and ourselves. This is seen everywhere, starting with reality shows and ending with reports about interior of homes. There is an idea that the most popular profession among young people is being a model or a TV show hosts. It means to be not only seen and famous, but also to be in a picture. The relationship among those who demonstrate themselves and those who are watching them is so strong and full of some expectations, that it looks like it becomes the meaning and the goal of our existence.

There is always a symbiotic relationship between posing and watching. This game among the one who models and the one who observes has some invisible and unwritten rules. Exhibitionist welcomes the observation of others- scopophilia, and he/she does that purposely. This choice is very clear when somebody tries to attract by standing on a scene, poses in front of cameras or chooses to live in a glass house. Look at me! The observer replies with a look, which encourages, reaffirms and soothes. The game might be a wish to tell something or become a proof of the same nostalgia that a voyeur feels, a nostalgia that cannot be satisfied. It also can be related to eroticism or it could be a sexual action. But it always stays just a game, interchange among the viewer and the poseur.

What happens if the agreement is broken? If the observer turns away from the poseur? Or if the poseur does not know about the presence of observer?

Mikael Lundberg’s cycle “xxx” shows people, whose pictures were taken without their awareness. They are framed two times, by the windows, through which their pictures were taken, and by a camera objective. Mikael and his camera unnoticeably entered into somebody’s personal and intimate space. The people are caught in such moments and poses that they probably don’t even remember about. That moment is far away from expression that was fixed. People are doing their regular activities: prepare meals, watch TV, work by computers, talk to each other or on the phone or take some cloth of. These pictures took the look of the window observer and made them images. The observer hanged around the windows secretly and kept the impressions to him/herself. But Mikael does not hide that he is watching others. On the contrary, he shares about it with us. He makes us a part of his actions. That is the difference between the observer and the photographer. Watching others is always private while photography gathers all the impressions and makes it public.

The first glance to the pictures makes me feel bad. Do I have a right to intrude without any permission, to watch those who do not participate in the game and who did not choose that? And how I should evaluate my own scopophilia, my strong desire to see, and probably, feel bad about what I saw later? Does Mikael Lundberg have any right to show this, to show these anonymous people? But something else happens. A person, an art work or the situation sometimes bounces back to me with such strength, that this person or this situation connects with me and it touches me. This does not happen often. But maybe this is how good art works- like a shock? This turns me on. It touches and arouses me because these are the images of every day and banality. The picture presents a conventional moment. You can feel peace, home and anonymity, which comforts and releases.

Mikael Ludnberg uses his camera in a way that became possible only after the film of fast small scenery appeared in the third decade. Years ago, in order to record something, there had to be extremely good lighting conditions and patient models, because the expose time could last several minutes. A small scenery camera could take a picture through 1/60 second or even faster. Light is another aspect of Mikael Lundberg’s photography. Electricity changed the interior which now could be seen from outside. Windows became lightened cupboards which could be seen. The purpose of the windows was an opportunity to look outside, but they rather became showcases, through which one could look what was inside. If there was no electricity, Mikael Lundberg wouldn’t be able to make the pictures. At the same time, the light sensitive camera objective has been improved. It brought an opportunity not only to find a motive due to the first and the last blur plan, but also gave a chance to take pictures secretly.

In one of the Fredrico Fellini’s movies “Dolce Vita” there was a photographer Paparazzi. A year after a film premier, Italian court cancelled the charges of violating the privacy right for a photographer, who was accused of taking somebody’s picture without a permission. The photographer explained that he was only doing his job as Paparazzi from that movie. This is where the term paparazzi photography came from.

However, the secret photography has an old story. Taking pictures of celebrities became popular in the fourth decade after Erich Solomon’s pictures. May be an attempt to make a secret picture killed the princess. I am looking at one of the scandal magazines “Se och hor”. In the picture there is Woody Allen with his young wife and two kids. The picture is done with the same series camera objective as the one Mikael Landberg uses. It looks like nobody knows about the camera but Woody Allen looks straight at it. He looks tired. He knows there is paparazzi somewhere, but he does not seem to care much about it.

Why are these pictures published? Why is somebody looking at them? What needs do they satisfy? May be Woody Allen and his family story reminds somebody a similar story? A story, which shows that the film director’s life is rather usual, with small kids, eating ice- cream, picnics at the park and banal walks. It is like a contrast to the dramatics and shiny parties and court processes in the movies. It looks like those usual things make us closer to each other. In Mikael Lundberg’s pictures we can find Woody Allen as well as ourselves or any other person. In that banality we can understand the lives of each other and recognize ourselves. In such a way the everyday life may seem subversive. At least then, when it becomes an image.

Mikeal Lundber’s pictures sometimes seem to be mystical, sometimes beautiful. As Walter Benjamin once said, camera has an ability to exalt things that it is showing. “Even a dump becomes beautiful in a picture”. An American philosopher Walt Whitman had similar ideas when in XIX century he related photography and democracy. He said that “we are all equal in front of a camera”, and photography would remove the differences among the rich and the poor. When taking a picture everything has the same value, so photography could be used as a tool to create a no-class society. We could think that Whitman’s ideas were naďve, but the idea, to make a picture as a tool for seeking greater understanding between people and showing the social injustices, makes an important part of the history of photography. It is everything, starting with Jacob Riis pictures showing the dumps of New York in 1890 and ending with the pictures of war prisoners in Abu Graibe. Photography has a tendency not only to idealize those that it shows, but it can also awake strong feelings of disgust. In the pictures of Mikael Lundberg, the images could reveal something. Something scary happens! And maybe it improves other genres of photography, like the pictures of detectives or police, done while tracking somebody in order to prove an illegal action. Technically, the pictures look like that because we see a blur image that is seen in many films about secret agents. It is common sense that police does use cameras. Photography relationship with the evidence is what makes the evidence different. Usually the picture is treated the same as finger prints. Both are so called indication indexes, which mean they are everything- a reason, an action and what is related to it, what happened. It is like a foot print is the sand, which shows who just walked here. But what do Mikael Lundberg’s pictures show? In one picture they mean exactly what they show. A man in the suit stood up and looked outside, a woman wearing rubber gloves, a guy with a blue shirt sitting. The strange thing is that the information displayed in pictures cannot be used for anything. Pictures without any additional information are worth the same as a class note with dates but without questions. At the same time Mikael Lundberg’s pictures display him and his actions. We can be absolutely sure that when Mikael pressed the button the same moment, when a blond guy was standing there…In such a way the photographer shows two actions, proves he is working two ways. But the fact the camera stops at one particular moment or at one place does not provide us with much useful knowledge. We are left with the leftovers. A picture. And this is where our fantasy and interpretation has to start working. We complete and supplement. What happened before and after? How can we know? We can only guess and imagine. This is how we are taught about photography. The pictures of “others” reveal a lot about ourselves, our desires, experiences, fears and fantasies.

When I look at these pictures one more time, I feel uplifted. Now I know how little I understand when looking at those pictures. There are people who just are, whom I don’t know and who are busy with their own lives. I can only state that there are many parallel ways in life, that our lives are just fragments at different moments that can be put in one complicated web. But it is not a shine, nor a scandal. There is nothing to reveal. And this makes it more interesting, gives more hope and relief than anything else. Because everything becomes open and everything becomes possible.

Maria Lantz
© Mikael Lundberg