Fotografiska Stockholm : A Quest for Humanity?

On his most recent visit to the Swedish capital, Mark Bibby Jackson visits Fotografiska Stockholm, and emerges from the wonderful photographic museum with more questions than answers.

City Breaks, Culture & History, Europe, Reviews

On his most recent visit to the Swedish capital, Mark Bibby Jackson visits Fotografiska Stockholm, and emerges from the wonderful photographic museum with more questions than answers.

I have a confession to make. I am often underwhelmed by photography exhibitions. Stunningly beautiful images can leave me rather flat if there is not a greater substance beneath the elegant façade. Which explains why despite being recommended highly as one of the things to do in Stockholm I entered Fotografiska with a fair amount of trepidation. I need not have feared.

Fotografiska Stockholm Exhibitions

From the moment I saw Jimmy Nelson’s dramatic portraits of scarce visited cultures I knew that Stockholm Fotografiska Museumis far more than just a pretty face. Homage to Humanity (until 1 December 2019) is a major work of art by Nelson as he looks to explore unique civilizations and the wisdom inherent within them. It is also quite visually stunning, as the Dutch-British photographer exposes the sense of pride so evident in the subjects of his photography.

A Hommage to Humanity by Jimmy Nelson at Fotografiska Stockholm.
A Homage to Humanity by Jimmy Nelson at Fotografiska Stockholm.

Homage to Humanity is one of around 25 exhibitions shown at Fotografiska each year. Opened in 2011, the photography museum aims to provide a new platform for photography. A sister Fotografiska photography museum recently opened in Tallinn Estonia.

On the floor above Nelson’s work, Sebastião Salgado’s Gold runs until 17 November 2019, featuring black and white images of the Serra Pelada gold mine in the northern Brazilian state of Para taken in 1986, and curated by Léila Wanick Salgado.

The mine was subject to a gold rush that saw some 50,000 prospectors descending upon the 200 metre shaft at its peak. Salgado’s photography shows men clambering over others as they search for gold, in images that reminded me of the early black and white films of Chaplin. One image of a man staring into the camera’s lens will live with me for a long time.

In essence the two exhibitions taken together demonstrate a sense of dignity lost and discovered.

Sebastião Salgado’s Gold
Sebastião Salgado’s Gold

Other exhibitions on display, including Christian Houge’s Residence of Impermanence and Saga Wendotte’s In Between Realities, had less resonance with me, although all seemed to fit in with a general questioning of what constitutes humanity.

As Nelson says in the introduction to his exhibition, “artists must always be part of the conversation … we can reflect, ask questions and share ideas.” I certainly left Fotografiska with my head more full of questions than when I had entered it a couple of hours earlier.

Fotografiska Stockholm Cafe and Restaurant

Union, a Fotografiska classic, photo Jenny Hammar
Union, a Fotografiska classic, photo Jenny Hammar

Fotografiska is not just a great venue for the photographic arts. The top floor is devoted to a cafe, bar and restaurant that affords sweeping views of Stockholm harbour back towards Gamla Stan. There is a really chilled ambience to the place, ideal for taking a coffee and discussing the works below, or perhaps sample a Stockholm craft beer.

For those looking for something more substantial, the Stockholm Fotografiska restaurant has an organic plant-based menu with an emphasis on locall-sourced, low-impact food with minimal waste, in what it calls ‘sustainable pleasure’. There is also a cocktail bar and studio, which can be used as a lounge, when it’s not featuring international DJs spinning their sets.

More information about Stockholm Fotografiska

Further information about Fotografiska, its philosophy and which exhibitions are featuring while you visit Stockholm, can be found here. You can also study photography with the Fotografiska Academy.

Fotografiska Stockholm Price

Entry costs Swedish Krona 165, but it is free when you purchase the excellent Stockholm City Pass which is available from the Stockholm Tourism Department.

Fotografiska Stockholm (Fotografiska Museet Stockholm)

Stadsgårdshamnen 22

T: +46 (0)8 509 00 500


Metro: Slussen.

Cover photo: Fotografiska at Christmas, photo Margita Ingwall. 

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Mark Bibby Jackson

Mark Bibby Jackson

Before setting up Travel Begins at 40, Mark was the publisher of AsiaLIFE Cambodia and a freelance travel writer. When he is not packing and unpacking his travelling bag, Mark writes novels, including To Cook A Spider and Peppered Justice. He loves walking, eating, tasting beer, isolation and arthouse movies, as well as talking to strangers on planes, buses and trains whenever possible. Most at home when not at home.

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