A Life in Grayscale: Gunnar Smoliansky

More than 65 years after he started taking photographs, Gunnar Smoliansky continues to make intricate studies in grandiose minimalism.

What was your first encounter with photography?

I was born on a small island, Lidingö, in the Swedish archipelago and moved with my parents to Saltsjö-boo, just outside of Stockholm, when I was 2 years old. I had a friend there and we were hanging out one night when he asked me if I wanted to see some photographs he’d taken. He showed me how to develop film, standing over the bowl and watching the photograph appear from the liquid. I was in awe. A few years later, I was working as a customs officer at the harbor in Stockholm, controlling the docks and making sure that sailors weren’t smuggling illegal goods into the country. A sailor approached me one night and we struck up a conversation. I saw that he had a camera on him and I still hadn’t let go of that night with my friend in ...


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