The photographer Christer Landergren (1941–2006) portrayed Sweden’s jazz scene during four decades. His photographs are an important documentation of one of the most influential musical genres of the twentieth century.
In 2006, Christer Landergren donated his entire photo archive to Svenskt visarkiv. In addition to thousands of prints, the archive contains around 150 000 negatives. Here we find photos of most of the jazz musicians who played in Sweden whilst Landergren was active – amongst others Duke Ellington, Sheila Jordan, Ornette Coleman, Ernestine Anderson, Nannie Porres, Big Mama Thornton, Archie Shepp, Don Cherry, Bernt Rosengren, Börje Fredriksson, Monica Zetterlund and Bengt Hallberg.
Studied at Stockholm’s School of Photography
Christer Landergren’s great interest in jazz began in his early teens, and he has told of a decisive visit to a cinema in the early 1950’s where he saw the film ”New Orleans” with the jazz musician Louis Armstrong and the singer Billie Holliday. From then on, jazz became a lifelong passion.
Landergren had already photographed to a certain extent when he applied to Fotoskolan (Stockholm’s School of Photography) in 1964. His application was successful. The school was then led by the famous photographer Christer Strömholm (1918–2002). After three years at the school, Landergren studied for a year at Dokumentärfilmskolan (the School of Documentary Film) which was led by Tor-Ivan Odulf. In 1968 he started to work as a teacher at Fotoskolan, and continued there until 1984. The school came in time to be a part of Kursverksamheten – under the wing of the University of Stockholm – and later became Nordens fotoskola (The Nordic Photo School).
Developed Swedish Jazz Photography
Christer Landergren also worked as a freelance photographer. From 1965 until his death he worked for the jazz periodical OrkesterJournalen (OJ), becoming in time one of its foremost photographers. A great part of his jazz photos can be found in OJ’s photo archive at Svenskt visarkiv. Landergren was always there with his camera where jazz was played – from small clubs to big festivals, mostly in Stockholm but also in other parts of the country. In the 1960’s he covered more or less everything that took place at the jazz club Gyllene Cirkeln (The Golden Circle). In the 1970’s and after, he was regularly at the Fasching jazz club.
Landergren developed great skills and a personal aesthetics which became important for a younger generation of photographers. At an early date, he captured movement and musical expression in his photos – features which later became basics in jazz photography. Capturing the essence of a subject and preserving its specific expression for days to come was characteristic for Landergren.
Artistic Expression and Technical Skill
Christer Landergren strove to attain a carefully-weighed balance between artistry and technique. He has expressed this as follows:
”One of the hardest things, in all means of expression, is to keep it simple. This is not the same as being base, but the opposite: a more straight and honest language without trendy miscolouring which obscures the basic message. Technical skill is important, but must never become an end. It is not in itself a message, just a necessary means to give the simple language a chance. First then can a totally self-evident piece of music, or a picture, also arouse admiration."
(From the book ”Body Soul”, 1987)
With regard to jazz photos, he has said:
”A good jazz photo is a photo that is penetrative and sensitive and manages to show more than just a musician’s appearance - and also says something about the photographer, about his stance and personal appreciation.”
(From OrkesterJournalen, number 12, 1986)
A Selection of Exhibitions and Recognitions
- Some Faces In Jazz (första egna utställningen) Jazzfestivalen i Umeå, 1968.
- Fotografiska museet (samlingsutställning) Moderna museet, 1986.
- Grand Prix vid en tävling utlyst av International Jazz Federation och tidskriften Jazz Forum 1986, vilket ledde till en stor utställning i Warszawa 1987.
- Gyllene Cirkeln – En bit av 60-talet, Stockholms Stadsmuseum, 17 nov 1995– 4 feb 1996.
- Jazz Moments, Stockholms Konserthus, 2007.
- En av hans bilder på Lars Gullin blev frimärke 1983.
- Body and Soul (Fotografcentrums förlag och Folket i bild/Kulturfront, 1987) monografi
- Chet Baker (författare Björn Borgström, Eklund & Joost, 1990)
- Jazz – En kärlekshistoria (redaktör Erik Centerwall, Föreningen Faschings vänner, 1992)
- Den Gyllene Cirkeln – Jazzen på 1960-talet (redaktör Roger Bergner, Prisma, 2002)