Photographer Carl Oliver Ander examines “the false relationship to reality that the medium has”
With photographs of light catching a water bottle in a stranger’s hand and leaves on the brink of being submerged in water, each of Carl’s series builds narrative through individual vignettes, which thread together to construct something decipherable.
- Ruby Boddington
- 21 August 2018
Inherent in the medium of photography is trust; “that what is photographed actually happened,” states Gothenburg-based photographer Carl Oliver Ander. Originally from a small town named Lidköping, Carl’s work sees him constructing his “own situations prior to photographing existing events, playing with the false relationship to reality that the medium has”.
Carl was first introduced to photography while attending football matches with his father as a child. “Instead of paying attention to the game, I was curious about the photographers that surrounded the field with their big telephoto lenses,” he recalls. After some time spent shadowing a local newspaper, studies at Gothenburg School of Photography and Valand Academy, Carl has moved away from documentary photography to a practice that borrows from the genre, building upon the very notion of documentation itself. “I seek to replace the typical questions connected with photography – the ‘when’ and ‘where’ – with the ‘how’ and ‘what’,” he explains.
Some projects follow strict conceptual guidelines and rules, for example, Time Marches On, whereas others such as Our Sun – The Giver of Life are less systematic, more “poetic and loose”. No matter what his approach, however, it’s the words “ambiguity and fluctuation” which act as driving forces for everything he does.
Time Marches On unfolded at a time where Carl had “trouble accepting the thought of every second being a second closer to an end,” and as a result, “reflected on alternative ways to perceive and measure time.” A collection of mini-series within the body of work, the photographs present several means of measuring time other than the mechanical clock.
From the growing roots of the houseplant to the shadow hitting a chair creeping slowly across the frame, each series within the series function almost like chapters. "Some of the photographs may seem to appear several times but all images are in fact individual photographs,” Carl tells It’s Nice That, “Many of the pictures are taken with just a minor dislocation in time and perspective to construct an illusion of repetition, stressing the unstoppable progress of time marching on.”
Our Sun – The Giver of Life, although sharing similar visual qualities to Time Marches On, has a more fluid concept: the energy source that links all of life. Although seemingly disparate, the images connect humans, the landscape and animals through this one perspective, taking their title from Werner Herzog’s explanation of the sun in Lo and Behold. “Thinking about how there is one thing that unites people and all living matters in the world is a prodigious thought,” Carl muses, “the words were stuck in my head for a while,” he adds on the project’s origins. As a Scandinavian, Carl admits a strong relationship to the sun – one which also prompted the project. “You become obsessed with it since we have it so little of it half of the year and an overload of it in the second half,” he explains.
Whatever his conceptual approach, Carl’s images manage to be highly communicative although subtle in their execution. This tone is a result of his reductionist process which sees him zooming in (literally and figuratively) on the most interesting or most important part of an image, or topic. With photographs of light catching a water bottle in a stranger’s hand and leaves on the brink of being submerged in water, each of Carl’s series builds narrative through individual vignettes, which thread together to construct something decipherable.
About the Author
Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor.