Portfolio: Hans Malm captures Gustavsberg's sense of loss in Sleeping with the Lights On


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The Independent Culture

Situated 15 miles east of Stockholm, Gustavsberg's ceramics factory once employed the entire town, and was renowned worldwide for its exquisite porcelain. But that was half a century ago.

Since then, rapacious competition from abroad has so eaten into profits that the factory now has just 50 people on its books – and what is left of the site will soon be levelled to make way for 1,000 apartments, part of an ever-more encroaching new-home programme to house Stockholm's growing commuter population in the suburbs.

Hans Malm grew up in the town but left in the mid-1980s. Twenty years later, he returned to be closer to his elderly father and allow his twin sons to discover the beauty of its landscape.

What he found dismayed him. "The municipal leaders don't live in the centre of the community, and I do not think the people who have moved in care whether a house with history is torn down to make space for something new."

Gustavsberg's natural beauty is overwhelmed by this sense of loss in Malm's series "Sleeping with the Lights On". Shot at night using exposure times of up to 25 minutes, he taps into the literal light of a culture that never powers down to create a hyper-real testament to his childhood haven, including, here, a hilltop by the factory.

"The Gustavsberg of my ancestors was not a place for those who were scared of the dark," he has said. "Yet today you can barely see the night stars due to the lights from parking lots and headlights from cars on the highway.

"With this work, I hope to raise a discussion about our heritage and the changes forced on it."

'Sleeping with the Lights On' will be published by Kehrer at the end of September, priced €36