THE PHOTOBOOK REVIEW
Guest editors: Kummer & Herrman
On Henrik Malmström, Life Is One Live it Well
Designed as a long zoom out, every glossy page of Life Is One comprises a vertical, full-bleed image, shot with flash and paired with great subtlety. It first takes us through a series of dislocated close-ups of decrepit interiors; a bundle of electrical wiring, bare walls, and an empty champagne bottle convey the feeling that things have ceased to be. The views gradually broaden. A jukebox and urinal hint at a public space, while a pathetic garland of deflated balloons supports the initial impression, confirmed page after page: wherever this is, the party is over.
Evidence abounds. We see a peanut dispenser, which means it’s a bar; photos of boats on the walls suggest it’s in a harbor. There’s a sign that reads “forbidden to people under eighteen” and a pair of neglected red pumps: this is no kindergarten. A black, red, and yellow flag: it must be in Germany.
Over a period of four years, Malmström set out to photograph in the bars of St. Georg, a shady district of Hamburg which is now being gentrified. Both subject and location are clearly reminiscent of Anders Petersen’s photobook Café Lehmitz, shot in a Hamburg bar in the 1960s and ’70s. But while the people in Petersen’s photographs seemed happy, in spite of human misery, here the atmosphere is depressed. […]