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BOOKS

27.12.2017

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This book is an invitation into a mysterious world. It begins with the cover – showing a fine-mesh net which cuts diagonally through the dark forest. Is this the border to the hidden kingdom cited in the title? Like all other questions, this, too, remains unanswered: the images feature no explanation, or indeed any text at all. Instead, the appeal of this large-format volume lies solely in the power of the pictured scenes. Only at the end of the book does the Swedish photographer (*1976) offer some details on the selected works: “The series consists of pictures taken during journeys through European landscapes in the years from 2006 to 2016. On my travels, I often found myself in moments that were neither the beginning of something, nor the end. Without being given any insights, I found myself in the middle of something. And that was what was most important.”
Now the long-term project has resulted in a photo book, presented in a classic style whereby each of the 42 illustrations is displayed on a right-hand page. As we enter the artist’s creative world, we embark on our own experience of the peculiar situations and encounters the photographer captured on his journeys. It seems that Stefan Bladh has a particular gift for recognising the comical, surreal or melancholic elements of everyday life. A shipwreck on a Ukrainian river, fireworks over the Vltava, plastic-wrapped trees along Moscow’s Kremlin wall, a lion in the boot of a car in Dagestan – the depicted situations are presented with no explanation, leaving it to the viewer to find their own interpretation. Though he could doubtlessly recount his travels in great detail, the photographer consciously keeps any sense of location to the barest minimum: “I only wanted to provide one small key at the end of the book – a hint, an allusion – and other than that, let the pictures speak for themselves.” Indeed, Bladh’s images, with their curiously matte hues, inspire a myriad of different narratives and interpretations. Often it is reality itself that gives rise to the most outlandish stories: perhaps the true ‘Hidden Kingdom’ is in the realm of the viewer’s own imagination. Ulrich Rüter

Stefan Bladh: Hidden Kingdom.
80 pages, 38 colour illustrations, English, 36.4 x 28.8 cm, Kerber Verlag
www.kerberverlag.com
Stefan Bladh: Hidden Kingdom

Stefan Bladh

Born 1976 in Örebro, Sweden, Stefan Bladh now lives in Stockholm. He frequently alternates between documentary and conceptual projects. The photo book ‘Hidden Kingdom’ comprises images taken on his travels, predominantly in Eastern Europe. As early as five years ago, LFI published a first insight into the series under the title of ‘Stasis’ (LFI 6/2012). Around three quarters of the series were shot with the Leica M6 and a 28mm lens, though Bladh has recently also started working with a Leica M10.

www.stefanbladh.com
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