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July - Hans Gedda.

This photographer is almost a household name in photographic circles in Sweden though his reputation extends abroad too. He is famous for portraits with his personal stamp on them. His approach is hard to define but is undoubtedly personal.

Some photographers are highly skilled at producing the results their clients want. That is to say the client has a vision and it is up to the photographer to use all their photographic knowledge to distil the idea into an image. And then there are other photographers that just seem to go their own way, and are given assignments because of it. They work from their own vision, approaching the subject from their own perspective. They take on assignments but the images are seeped with the individualism of the photographer. They leave their undeniable mark, quite simply. And here we find perhaps a general description of  how Hans Gedda works.

The borderline, if there is one, between ‘photographer’ and ‘artist’ can sometimes be difficult to determine. Many might say there is no need to do so and in the case of Hans Gedda that would be the easiest line to take. His images are frequently a product of a deep insight and vision that do not necessarily need photography as their vehicle. But Hans has chosen photography as his medium. His portfolio, which now stretches over thirty years or so, contains a mix of portraits, reportage and just ‘images’. They are bold and they are sometimes provocative. They are powerful and they are fascinating. They are difficult to dismiss as they contain a quality that hooks the viewer.

 Hans grew up in a small town in Sweden and started in photography when he was thirteen with a camera he received as a birthday present. This interest won over his other interest at the time, playing the trumpet. There is no formal photographic training in his past, though he was an assistant for a while. With this background, he went on to create a style that attracts the attentions of the likes of SAAB, IBM, and Hennes & Mauritz, to mention a few. Despite his success though, he is still searching for the ‘ultimate picture’. For a long while his favourite camera was the Hasselblad SWC, which he called his ‘third eye’. But now, despite his admitted indifference to photographic technique, he has moved into the digital era with a Hasselblad H1 complete with Hasselblad digital back. Perhaps then his ‘ultimate picture’ will be digital, taken with a digital ‘third eye’.
Hans works in the commercial world and on his personal projects at the same time. It’s his versatility that allows him to cross backwards and forwards. He won the World Press Photo for his very strong portrait of Nelson Mandela in 1991 while just recently he finished working on a fashion calendar for 2005. At present, he is concentrating on a book and exhibition called “And God Created Man” together with his wife Cat Soubbotnik. Again this latter work seems a long way from the unmistakeable, black & white reportage/portrait images from the eighties that almost cry out Hasselblad. It’s not easy to find an obvious thread that runs through circus clowns, a close-up of the King of Sweden’s hand, a portrait of Andy Warhol, surrealistic still-lifes and an image of a semi-clad model sitting by what appears to be the Batmobile! But there is no need to find one; his versatility allows him to carry it off.

This individual vision isn’t always a runaway success with everybody though, as Hans himself fondly recalls. He had been asked to photograph a famous opera singer for a Hasselblad advertisement. He put his slant on the session as usual, though this turned out not to be in tune with the opera singer who had envisaged a very conventional portrait. When she saw the results, she sent him a letter: “ Hans Gedda shoots Birgitt Nilsson with a Hasselblad, Birgitt Nilsson shoots Hans Gedda with a machine gun.” Fortunately for Hans Gedda, the opera singer had a sense of humour.