Publicerat 23 juli, 2012

Seeking to shake up ingrained perceptions

Who has power over the image, who is the observer and who the observed? In the Us and Them project, those who are being photographed also take their own pictures. This gives two perspectives of the same reality. ”We believe that our methodology is one of many ways in which culture can contribute to a more human society,” states Lars Öberg, the project’s initiator.

Eight professional photographers from Umeå are working together in the Us and Them documentary photograph project. In autumn 2012, they will each start working on their own social documentary theme. The results of this are to be reported as ”work in progress” at the Association of Swedish Professional Photographers hosted event during the Norrland Days in Umeå, February 2013.

Throughout capital of culture year in Umeå, the project will be presented in its entirety in eight photo exhibitions with associated activities. Each exhibition will show a professional photographer’s externally viewed image of a reality and the subject’s internally viewed image of his/her own existence.

”In this way, we want to present images of our era, our city, our region and our lives; to shake up ingrained perceptions about the observer and the observed and re-examine the division of people into ’us and them’. If our ’storytelling’ can help nuance existence, we have reached a long way,” says Lars Öberg.

In the What We See subproject, he will investigate how those with extremely poor sight see the world. ”This methodology gives them the tools and the power to depict their existence and I will learn more about their situation. However, there can be no certainty that I will understand the context in the way that they do,” comments Lars Öberg.

Project given a boost by Umeå2014
Using funds from The Cultural Boost and Umeå2014, the project arranged thePeople and their Portraits image exhibition at Västerbotten museum in March 2012. The presenter in Bio Abelli (which was filled to bursting) was Inta Ruka, the famous documentary photographer from Riga. She also held a workshop for the eight photographers.

”There, we were able to jointly shape VODA in readiness for Umeå2014 and initiate a photographic collaboration between Umeå and Riga. Thanks to the Culture Lift, the project has really taken off,” explains Johan Gunséus whose project contribution portrays the changes in a girl’s life.

The working title for Elin Berge’s subproject is I’ll be your mirror, whose picture of whom?. Via adverts, she will be inviting people to take self-portraits using a self-timer.

Stimulating experience
”It is always my image of reality that I put on show. However, I like playing with the idea of giving the shutter button to the subject. In this project we can also share findings. This is stimulating in the lone role of photographer. In all its forms, culture is oxygen for all of us. Umeå2014 is an opportunity that we should all respond to, both as business people and as residents,” states Johan Gunséus.

To facilitate the search for cultural sponsorship, the project is now forming an association. Crowd-funding, Kulturbryggan and grants are other routes for obtaining finance. If all goes to plan, a photo album summarising Us and Themwill be published in the capital of culture year 2014.

The Us and Them project can be followed at and David Dahlberg, Alexandra Ellis, Malin Grönborg, Sara Lindquist and Linda Thompson are the other photographers in the project.

In the picture: Lars Öberg, Elin Berge and Johan Gunséus. Photo: Yvonne Rittvall

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