“We Were Once Alive”: 100-Year-Old Portraits from Rural Sweden by John Alinder

Sävasta, Altuna parish, 1910–20

From the 1910s to the 1930s, John Alinder portrayed the local people of rural Sweden, the landscape around them and their way of life. Alone, in pairs or in groups, the people stand facing the photographer’s camera.

h/t: guardian

Sävasta, Altuna parish, 1910–20

He often photographed people in their homes and gardens, using the photographic technology of the time – glass plates. These were developed in a small darkroom he had built. After exposure and development of the negatives, he placed them in direct contact with a special photographic paper in a frame under glass and exposed them to sunlight to create the prints.

Sävasta, Altuna parish, 1918–35

Born in 1878, in the village of Sävasta in Uppland, a province in eastern central Sweden, Alinder was the son of a farmer.

Miss Linnea Ekenberg and Emil Johanson, Tibble Torstunaby, Sävasta, Altuna parish, 1919

Alinder remained in the village all his life. He controversially chose not to take over his parents’ farm and instead became a self-taught photographer and jack of all trades.

Stråle’s dog sitting with eyeglasses, Kaby, Simtuna parish, 1922

Alinder was a music lover, holder of the Swedish agency for the British gramophone brand His Master’s Voice. For a time he ran a rural shop from his home, and likewise even operated an illicit bar.

Painters Lindgren and Torell, Sävasta, Altuna parish, 1919

Alinder’s portraiture allows for the magic of chance, both liberating and defining its subjects.

Siri Johanson in confirmation attire, Kotte, Altuna parish, 1931

Often his subjects look straight into the camera, as if they can see us and travel the hundred years or so that lie between their time and ours, saying: “You are alive now, but we were once alive.”

Agnes Johansson (right) and friend, Sävasta, Altuna parish, 1910–20

The Alinder collection came to light in the 1980s when a curator found more than 8,000 glass plates in a library basement.

Ljung’s daughter standing by herself on a chair, Torstunaby, Torstuna parish, 1920

Children placed on chairs, people perched in trees, labourers, confirmation candidates and old ladies; Alinder’s subjects are often depicted against a background of foliage and sprawling greenery penetrated by sunlight.

Major Alström’s wife with the owl, Göksbo, Altuna parish, 1932

Sävasta, Altuna parish, 1910–20

Self Portrait, John Alinder in his garden, 1910–20

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