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Indepth Arts News:

"Sten Didrik Bellander. Photographs 1939-1999"
2000-04-08 until 2000-05-28
Moderna Museet
Stockholm, , SE Sweden

Sten Didrik Bellander (born in 1921) was one of the Swedish photo-graphers who formulated the pictorial style that characterised Swedish photography during the 1950s and '60s. His photographs were inspired by the humanist photographers in France like Edouard Boubat and Robert Doisneau. Bellander's pictures have a purity and austerity in composition, showing natural forms and lyrically describing light and shadow - a cultivation of the essentials. Curator: Leif Wigh

Sten Didrik Bellander's (b.1921) photographs have a liberal, humanistic consciousness as well as a pronounced sense of form and thorough mastery of technique. His still lifes contain elements of chance and spontaneity, but also have a concentrated presence. His portraits are humorous but with a surrealistic aspect that only becomes evident after a time.

The Swedish photographers who first inspired Bellander in the early 1940s were Ferdinand Flodin, Arne Wahlberg and Rolf Winqvist. When the Second World War ended in the mid-1940s, Bellander began to seek inspiration from photographers outside Sweden, especially those working in American picture and fashion magazines like Vogue and Harpers Bazaar.

Bellander began to make photographs as a schoolboy in the 1930s. Already by the '40s his pictures had been noticed by specialist photo journals like FOTO and the Nordisk Tidskrift för Fotografi. While still at school, he worked during the summer holidays for Sandels Illustration Bureau, a picture agency that the press photographer, Karl Sandels had established in 1934. The young Bellander assisted the photographers at the same time as he learned about developing negatives and other darkroom skills. In 1944 his work was sufficiently known that it was chosen by a jury to be included in the National Museum's exhibition Modern Swedish Photography .

At the beginning of 1947 he went to New York to study photography. For several months he took courses in advertising and portrait photography. During the autumn of the same year he was employed as an assistant by Richard Avedon. Courses were also organised at the studio by the main designer of Harpers Bazaar, who taught with Richard Avedon and Irving Penn.

Back in Stockholm in 1948, Bellander took over Savoy's Atelje on Drottninggatan, which was quickly turned into a meeting place not only for the young photographers of the time, but also for writers and intellectuals. Stimulated by his experiences in America and the work of his contemporaries, he together with his friends arranged in 1949 the influential Young Photographers exhibition which attracted enormous attention and stimulated discussion long after it ended. There were several reasons for this: the photographers had given their pictures surrealistic names and had shown a lack of respect for tradition, especially that of portrait photography. The exhibition was also shown in Gothenburg and Paris, and several years later, in a somewhat revised form, it was mounted in New York.

Sten Didrik Bellander attracted attention once again in 1954 when he was the winner of the newspaper Svenska Dagbladet's major photography prize. The same year he had a solo exhibition at Bankhallen in central Stockholm. The following year, he both sat on the jury and participated in the National Museum's large exhibition of Swedish Photography Today - Black and White. In 1958 he helped organise the group, Tio Fotografer (Ten Photographers), which included several of Sweden's most respected photographers. Some of these photographers had participated in the epoch-making exhibition Young Photographers, an experience that had helped to consolidate their friendship. In 1961-62 Bellander participated in Moderna Museet's exhibition Swedes as Seen by Eleven Photographers, and after being seen there, several of his pictures became recognised as classics. Since this exhibition Bellander has mainly been shown in group exhibitions together with colleagues from Tio or in shows which have focused on his work's specific conceptual character.

The exhibition now on view at Moderna Museet is one of the few solo exhibitions that Bellander has made. Sten Didrik Bellander - Photography 1939-1999 contains photographs from an artist who has had many students and who has inspired countless other photographers.

This exhibition could never have been realised without the chairman of the Swedish Photographers' Union, Ake Hedstrom, who has helped in all possible ways to make the photos available.

Curator: Leif Wigh

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