Sven - a book by photographer Peter de Ru

"Passing time is measured and described in words like "decades". Years are packed tight to facilitate interpretation of events, and our memories seek hooks to hang things on. People prefer to imagine that development means progress.

Development curves are supposed to go upward, no one wants to think about plateaus. And certainly not about time, or life, going around in circles. The very idea threatens to expose what is quite obvious; every life is actually cyclical.
Birth, growth, blossom, decay, death.

This is what Sven's story is about: beginning one winter and going on to a single spring, summer and autumn. Time going neither back nor forward – but in circles. Events from different periods living parallel lives. How the past and the future can both be present at the very same instant. How difficult it is to know what motivates people, what their values are, how they make their life choices. These pictures, fractions of seconds frozen in time, contain it all.

Sven's story illustrates some aspects of what all of us in Sweden are pleased to acknowledge as our roots or our cultural heritage, as well as reflecting things many people really do not want to recognize. It includes nature, the source of our wood, the typical red Swedish cottage, unpainted gray wood subject to wind and rain. It includes simple shapes, the arching trunk of the oak tree, a leaky veranda, a ramshackle gazebo: objects that look as if they have been packaged to trigger our nostalgia.

Almost all of us look at remains and memories from the old days and find our eyes brimming with tears. But Sven hasn't saved these objects as mementos. They are there because they always have been. Certainly, we recognize Sven's way of relating to objects: he cares deeply about them at the same time as he refuses to become attached to them. At the same time, he cares about things in a different way than most of us. When Sven saves something, he lets it live its own life, become part of its own ecocycle. As if he understood that to every thing, even the most trivial, there is a season.

Sven does not have a better life than the rest of us. Or a worse one. He is not an outsider in the contemporary world, but to him, where he lives, time truly exists.

Elsewhere in society, time rarely gets to show its face, and then only at a distance. Ageing is supposed to be concealed, wrinkles covered over. Everything gets thrown away when it is starting to get old. All we want to have around us is things that are absolutely new or antique or kitschy-trendy from the past.

Stop a little! Look at these pictures of the world where Sven lives, of his home. Do you see time in them? The years passing quietly. Running out.

- Excerpts of a text from the book written by Lotta Jonson

Lotta Jonson is a Swedish journalist specialised in form and design. Her text about Peter de Ru's book is brilliant.

I had not met Peter for nearly two years, but we are connected via email and telephone now and then. But finally the other day we got a chance to meet at a café to talk about the book "Sven". I had only seen the cover from the book and it was an exciting moment to unfold it and see the 34 photographs, all in colour, photographed with a Hasselblad medium formate camera.

Peter tells me that he has known Sven for nearly 40 years, that is when Peter - born in the Netherlands - settled down in Stockholm. The photographs are taken during a period of almost ten years.

It is a great book. If you want a photobook this year - this is one I am happy to recommend. Peter's photos are totally integrated with the everyday life of Sven. It is an amazing work by an important Swedish photographer.

After seeing the photos several times, I discover details that were not there at a first glance. I am almost ashamed of not having seen the man with the rifle in the book cover picture.

I am glad to meet Peter again. He is a passionate photographer, with important things on his mind. We enjoy the sunshine that has returned to Stockholm and decide to meet soon again. - Mr Urbano (aka Ulf)

You will find the book at to mention a Swedish site or from Photo-Eye (English) where signed copies should be available as well.

All photos from the book © Peter de Ru
Text from the book © Lotta Jonson
Photos from meeting Peter © Ulf Fågelhammar


Paolo Saccheri said…
wonderful and interesting pictures!
Oskarp Mask said…
What a great and important document this is! Thanks to photographers like Peter documentary photography can go on telling stories of our everyday life.
br said…
Mikael said…
Yes truly a great document to cherish and also very interesting and also something i really want to look up in his book, thanks for the story and the nice photos
Anonymous said…
Glad to discover !