IMAGINED EVENTS, RITES AND MAGICAL REALISM The Documentary Fiction of Jenny Källman
No matter if we look at a painting, a photograph, or a moving picture, the image requires the time of our perception. Aside from this ocular and sensory dimension of image and time, represented movement is not restricted to the moving image, but may produce a sensation of passing time also in a painted image or a photograph. Temporality may be imposed by the sheer format of a picture, which may simply be too wide to be taken in at a single glance. Similarly, a series of images appeals to our narrative imagination. Like a film, it scrolls by, although not necessarily as a coherent story; more in the sense of a rhythmic whole where a gesture may reappear in variations.
Jenny Källman’s work exemplifies photography beyond the implied realism and irrevocable past tense of the image imprint. The chance element and truth claim, which are often ascribed to photographic inscription, are cancelled in these images, which mise-en-scène and suggested events invoke the painterly of photographic abstraction and the unfolding space-time of a filmic narrative. Young people are portrayed alone or in small groups. They tend to look at something beyond the image frame, and they seem to be caught at a moment when something is about to happen. The suggested moment of a “not-yet-now” adds to the dramatic framing of the subjects, who often seem to blend with the surrounding environment or to fuse with dramatic shadows. These pictures might be reenacted scenes from a film, or recollections from different movies. A story is implied and so is narrative time, although the order of events and their meaning will have to be imagined by the viewer.
Despite the lack of action and the evasive motif, the series of images would also read as a photo-roman referring to a particular set of themes. “Documentary fiction” would also be a fitting label to Källman’s work: Social rituals, unseen events, and authentic gestures. The images bring attention to the everyday of social interaction, and, personally, I recall the complexity of friendship as a young girl. The photo series seems to picture the joy of friendship and shared experiences, but also anxiety and the deepest sense of solitude. Considered separately as variations of a theme, or as still images from an imaginary film, the fragmented drama presented in these images touches upon strong feelings of togetherness and isolation; feelings which become almost tangible in Källman’s enactment of social life.
Malin Wahlberg (Research fellow and assistant professor at the Department of Cinema Studies at Stockholm University)