A Photograph By: Per Englund

  • Posted 96 months Ago

This week's installment of A Photograph By: comes from Stockholm based photographer, Per Englund. Having worked on numerous books over the years, Englund recently released the product of around 10 years worth of work as a book called Life Geos On; for which he received the 2009 Swedish book award. The series depicts South Africa in numerous untouched lights; as opposed to focussing on the decay and stresses the country faces, Englund focusses primarily on the enjoyment and simple pleasures a country like South Africa can offer. We decided to drop Per a line to talk about a particular image from the series and find out what life was like in South Africa over the many years he spent there.

Hi Per, so when did you take this Photo?
It was taken back in 2003 if I'm not mistaken. It was during a crazy party at a castle in Cape Town which they had converted into art studios. It's a strange place with dance floors, bars and studios all over the place.

Who is the girl?
That's a model I was dating for a while whose place I stayed at in return for my young supple body, I had no money for rent. I might not have actually even taken this photo, it was taken with my camera, but I'm not sure if it was me or not; it was one of those nights.

Blimey, so we managed to pick the one photo from the book that you didn't actually take?
Yeah, good going! I retouched my face out of this one. I'm pretty sure my friend Philipp Nemenz took it.

Why did you retouch your face out?
It just spoiled the composition a little; the photograph just wasn't really about my face, so it felt unnecessary.

This picture is part of the series Life Geos On right?
Yeah, that's right.

Do you still get people asking you if that was a typo?
Yes! All the distributors call the publisher about it all the time and when we made it, the printers called me up before processing the job to make sure it was correct. Some people feel very clever when they manage to spot why it's spelt like that. It's a test to see if the person has really looked at the book or not. It's also quite funny to see someone pick up the book and not dare to mention it.

What happened while you were out in South Africa?
Loads of crazy stuff. One time I was on my way back in to the building that this girl lived at and I saw a man - who turned out to be her landlord - hastily stomping his way down the corridor the opposite way to me with my cameras and her passport in his hands.

What?! Why?!
She hadn't paid the rent so he had gone into the apartment and taken anything of value to sell.

Did you get the stuff back?
Yeah, we started yelling at each other in the corridor and eventually I got the stuff back. The most fucked up part is that the cameras were borrowed without permission from a photographer that I was assisting at the time.

Wow, you got lucky there...
Yes, definitely. It was a big mess. I moved out immediately. I remember one time I was at a photographer friend of mine's house called Marc Shoul. We heard a noise coming from the kitchen, so we ran in to see what it was; it was a man who had climbed up the side of the building with a big long hook made out of a fence which he was using to drag a wallet from one side of the room to the window so he could steal it. I got a photo of that hook actually.

So South Africa is a nice safe place to be then it seems?
I love South Africa, it's a really friendly place. For real.

Apart from the crazy landlords and fence-hook-building-climbing-thieves... Is this one of the reasons you keep your negatives in a safe in a bank?
Kind of, not really. I'm scared a fire will destroy my archive, so I protect it obsessively. Backup after backup after backup. I carry a hard drive which is another back up in my pocket at all times, just incase.

Woah, weird.
Yeah, I remember this one time I went to the cinema with a girl and I had forgotten my hard drive. I had to go home and get it, I didn't tell her that's why I left but I would never have forgiven myself if something had happened. It would feel like my whole history had disappeared.

So you're sitting on a lot of stored content?
Yeah, loads of it...

What are you going to do with it all?
Well I need to finish a project I'm working on called Life in Sweden which is scheduled to be published next year. Then I have a few other little things I'd like to catch up on. I'd like to dig in to the black and white archive again this year. We shall see.

Sounds exciting. Good luck.