Fotografiska, as they often do, approach things a little differently. While most places would take a retrospective glance back after 10 years, they’re doing it, to a certain degree, after eight. They’re celebrated their eight-year anniversary a new photo-book, The Eye, featuring selected images from Fotografiska’s exhibitions. With that on the table, and a new Fotografiska set to open in New York early next year, we thought it was a good time to check the lay of the land with co-founder Per Broman.
After eight years with Fotografiska, you’re now releasing a book, The Eye. Why now, why have you chosen to put out a book now?
We have looked back every year at what we have done. Now we have done over 160 exhibitions since we opened Fotografiska in Stockholm. It’s an unbelievable document of photography, and of where photography is today. There’s quite a lot of history there. So to put this out now feels like a celebration of our first eight years. We’re working on international expansion now, we’re going to open Fotografiska in New York and London next year, and it feels like celebrating the eight-year anniversary with that and this book is a beautiful thing.
What can you tell us about the book? What was your goal with it and what do you want to capture in it?
The goal was to make a document of the eight years of Fotografiska, and also have a nice variation. When we looked back at the material we have exhibited over the eight years here, we have had a really nice blend of different types of photography. And we wanted to display it in a different way. So we thought, ‘ok, if we made a book, how would it look?’. And so we decided to display pictures side by side that one can associate with one another, that work together. It’s a wonderful document.
And I also wondered what you thought the role of a photography book in 2018 is, in the age of the internet when people can look at whatever kind of photos they want whenever they want?
I think that photobooks will become more and more important, as everything becomes more digital. The physical expression has a stillness and security, a certainty, to it. And that’s what a physical book brings. Readership increases for normal books, even though people listen to Storytell and other digital outlets. It’s a little bit like with our exhibitions, physical photos that hang on the walls. Physical art is an experience that’s something entirely different from the digital experience. The digital just completes it. There’s another value to it, a value to physical material that’s still there, and I think is wonderful. Even just look at the quality of the paper, it gives it a dimension that the digital doesn’t have. It is edited by Johan Lindskog and he has done a great job with his eye for humour and shapes.
Do you think people give more time and put more effort into appreciating physical art?
Yes, it does turn out that way. Browsing through a photobook is a completely different experience to going through one digitally, which you can do with ours also.
How do you think Fotografiska has changed over the past eight years? Have you changed any of the ways you do things or your methods since you began?
Fotografiska is entirely privately financed. So we have [with more money over time] had more muscle to do bigger and bigger things. We feel that every part of Fotografiska becomes better and better with every day that passes. And we learn more all the time. About how we build our exhibitions for example, which is something we’re learned over time, how to create as powerful an experience as possible. And for example, where we’re sitting just now [the restaurant], one can have food and drinks, and that wasn’t here five years ago. Visiting Fotografiska is much better today than when we opened eight years ago.
Do you see Fotografiska as a complete experience, that people can come here, browse the exhibitions, get something to eat, have some drinks, make a whole day of it?
Yes, our central idea with Fotografiska is to contribute to a more conscious world. It is something we do with our photography as well as incorporated it in everything we do. For example, we now open a new Live Scene in Stockholm, Fotografiska Studio Live, where we mix all sorts of artistic expressions and styles. We are inclusive, it’s in our DNA.
Because this is a sustainable restaurant, right?
Yes, we have a no-waste focus. That’s part of our focus for what we want Fotografiska to be and how we want to affect the world. But we build that on the experience we offer our guests. Food and drink is a part of people’s day. We have a fantastic location here with wonderful views, but we’re a little remote. So when people are here, they’ll want something to eat and drink, so we want to give them that in the best possible way. With a restaurant with a focus on sustainable pleasure, and no-waste, which we apply all over the house. We have a café, a bar, we want to create a situation where people want to hang here.
Do you think your philosophy as an institution has changed in any way over that last eight years?
No, but we had a different mentality when we started. Our relation to the world has naturally changed over the eight years that have gone by, and especially with regards to the photography establishment that exists around the world, and our network with other institutions. We have become very well-respected out there in the world. When we opened on May 21 2010, [famous photographer] Annie Leibovitz said at the press conference that now people had begun to talk about photography in Stockholm and what was happening here. And it went pretty fast. And a big part of the photo community now knows that at Fotografiska is where you’ll find a lot of the best exhibitions.
I saw your exhibition with the political parties [Fotografiska invited Sweden’s political parties to submit images that represent how they want Sweden to look after the election] last week. What was your goal with that, and do you think institutions like Fotografiska have a responsibility to contribute to political discussion like that?
It’s that it’s election year this year, and with our ambition to contribute to a more conscious world, it’s a part of that goal. And we thought we would show what the parties are about, and get them to imagine the Sweden they want to see after the election. We felt it was an exciting challenge for them, and it would let our guests see what kind of visual identity, what kind of visual language that these parties use. They tend to campaign digitally, people see the photos all the time, so we thought if we lift those images up and hang them up, how would those parties feel visually? And what kind of Sweden do they want to see?
You will now open in London and New York. What are your ambitions with that, and do you hope to open in more cities in the future?
We will open in more cities, and we’re working on that now. We want to continue to spread photography, and we want to contribute to a more conscious world, in many places, not just Stockholm. We felt that, even from when we opened, that what we do is quite unique, and we think it’s needed in more places. So we have been contacted by cities that are working on their city development and planning, and others who want to take photography to more places in the world. New York will open early next year, and then we’ll see what happens.
Is it difficult to open several branches in several cities and still have every one be a unique experience, and not just have it feel like a franchise?
No, it will still feel like a proper Fotografiska. We have had so many greats contacts, like photographers and people at institutions all around the world, with an eye on putting together exhibitions and touring them around. It is quite expensive to put together exhibitions in the way we do it, so to be able to show them in more places will let us have a bit more budget for each exhibition, and it’s a very exciting opportunity.
When you open a new Fotografiska, what qualities do you want to carry over? What is Fotografiska’s signature?
I hope that when we open in New York our exhibitions will be of a class even higher than those we have in Stockholm. And that it will contribute to Fotografiska’s exhibitions in Stockholm becoming even better. I think the more Fotografiskas there are around the world, the more the quality will increase.
How do you see photo-art developing into the future? Now there are many photo-artists who use the internet heavily in their work, they work on Instagram, with video-effects, with more conceptual and meta art. So how do you see photo-art developing?
Photo-art will continue to develop. Photography is of course a technique in the bigger art world, a technique one uses, and there are many who mix techniques, using digital effects and video. I think it’s only going to develop and develop. Even in our physical exhibitions, we have done things with video and even digital art, which isn’t just straight photography.
Is it difficult to keep yourselves updated on developments in the world of photo-art?
It’s obvious we can’t keep track of everything. But we have a great exhibition team, and we have a great network. It takes a very high level to be able to exhibit at Fotografiska. You don’t get to do it just by doing one or two good pieces. So our network helps us keep track of those that have reached that level around the world. Then there are of course places that are more difficult to keep track of than others. We have a shown a lot of African art, but we could of course do more. The same for Asian art, we have had three Chinese photographers exhibiting here. But Chinese photography is enormous, and now we have good contacts we keep ourselves updated on what’s happening in China. But we can’t keep track of everything.
What does the future hold for Fotografiska? What kind of exhibitions interest you in the future, maybe a kind you haven’t done already?
We have no ambition really to change. We want to show all kinds of photography, the world’s best photography in every sorts of genre. For example we are now for the first time awarding our Major Documentary Photo Prize of SEK 100,000 – a celebration of the tradition of storytelling through documentary photography and film, with the intention to highlight this important way of communication in a world full of fake news.
So is there something you want to do that you haven’t done yet?
There are photographs we want to exhibit that we haven’t done yet of course, the world of photography is fantastic. It’s always moving forward.
Main Photo: Anton Corbijn at Fotografiska