Having been given a “carte blanche” for a new book publication by French publisher Pierre Bessard, Swedish photographer JH Engström decided to photograph his first years in his new home of Montreuil near Paris, having just left his home and country of birth Sweden.
Leafing through the book, the reader is struck by the earnestness and unpretentiousness of Engström’s approach. The photographs – all of them taken not further than 500 meters away from his studio in Montreuil – mostly show neighbours and people he met in the streets, in bars and cafes, up close or far away, with eyes locked or seemingly unaware of Engström’s presence; always revealing Engström’s sincere desire to bridge some invisible gap between him and his subjects by means of looking, photographing or other forms of conversation. Every few pages, Engström included short lines of text that have accumulated over the years, outlining ideas and thoughts (e.g., “The self-portrait as opposed to narcissism”). With many photographs of passersby taken from his studio window or veranda (unbridgeable distance) and the palpable curiosity, empathy and interest in strangers, the book feels strangely prescient for the new pandemic age.
Here it is warm
I could stay here.
– JH Engström