Follow Lundh! Between Text and Context in a Photographer’s Archive

  • Marie Steinrud Stockholm university
Keywords: Functional context, Archival silence, Biography, Method, Photography

Abstract

No matter how well documented a life is, only shards, bits and pieces remain of what was once a vibrant person, with purpose, memories, feelings, actions and ideas. For any historian, these slivers are what remains and what can be used to access a past. This article presents a case study where the photographs taken by the photographer Gunnar Lundh (1898–1960) are in focus. The archive contains next to no written sources, and the information about the motifs is scarce. This is in fact the fate of many personal archives, especially those containing few written sources. The contact sheets Gunnar Lundh used in his business as a photographer provide some mostly routine and brief information, usually the year and sometimes where the photo is taken, in “Denmark” or “Skåne”. A majority of them are picturing anonymous individuals. The lack of information makes the archive of Lundh, in a sense, silent or mute. The purpose with my research is to investigate what happens to a photograph or a set of photographs when more contexts are added. By adding biographical knowledge it is possible to read the photographs. In this, I am using the art historian Joan M. Schwartz’s ideas about functional context. The process of adding context to an archive is a negotiation of the past that will contribute new dimensions in our collective memory, and also generate new, additional archives. There are options other than silence, and the inevitable reversion and degradation into oblivion for those silent, or mute, personal archives in focus here. A biographical method can however operate in the area between text and context, joining them together and thus letting the material speak.

References

Archival records

Sweden

Nordiska museets arkiv (NMA):
Archive after Gunnar Lundh

Stockholms stadsarkiv (SSA):
Stockholms rådhusrätt Kungsholms församling

Stockholms läns landstings arkiv:
S:t Eriks sjukhus

Lunds universitet (LU):
Filosofiska fakultetens arkiv

Helsingborgs stadsarkiv (HAS):
Höganäs församling
Väsby församling
Helsingborgs stads församling
Helsingborgs rådhusrätt

Region Skåne, regionarkivet:
S:t Maria sjukhus

Denmark

Rigsarkivet
Rigshospitalet sogn, fødte kvinder 1929–1930

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Published
2020-05-31
Section
Archive and Methods