Smoliansky is a photographer who allows us to hear the voices of the small things. Things with such inconsequential voices that they can hardly be heard. Crumbs, nail holes, cracks. Nothing is too small or too insignificant to be the object of his attention. Yet there is something monumental about these individual details. Grandiose minimalism so to speak, having nothing to do with modesty, but rather with a sense of the equivalent importance of all things. His way of portraying the world is nonhierarchical. He has no ranking order, but instead a kind of enhanced attentiveness, a watchfulness that is always prepared and that leaves space for the unassuming.
His prints are soft and fragile. There is something vulnerable about them, about his use of a mild grayscale of nuances, which cautiously avoids the drama of black and white. On the contrary, they dissolve the boundary between object and observer, between human beings and things, creating permeability between the two. Quite often Smoliansky initially focused on the people in his street photos, but gradually he appears to have become more interested in the traces they have left behind. All the objects they have used (and abused) until they changed form.
“The best milieu for me is one where it is almost entirely impossible to photograph, where you kind of have to make something out of nothing.” What a typically Smoliansky thing to say. He does not seek out the spectacular, the striking. Instead he waits with anticipation for the nonevent until it displays itself on its own terms, merging with everything around it in a way that gives rise to new, unexpected views. He speaks of himself as, “attracted to places that don’t want to give anything up voluntarily.” Perhaps this is the essential attitude for coming into contact with small things. Things that demand respectful communication, not hat in hand but appreciatively and without violating the integrity of that which he wishes to portray. No matter whether it is a human being or an object.
Gunnar Smoliansky was born 1933 in Visby, Sweden. For many years, Smoliansky was copyist to Christer Strömholm and is a real master in the dark room.