Book Review: Sthlm77 by Gerard Polisset
Zoink by Zaptronic
Photographer Gérard Hervé Polisset photographed Stockholm’s first punkers in the 1970s. Now he has revisited the project and turned it into a book with pictures along with some interviews.
Tell us a little about your background?
In 1973, I moved from Paris to Stockholm to study graphic design and photography at Konstfack University. When the year was up, my real education began at Ericson & Co, an advertising agency in Gamla Stan. My colleagues were real characters. We were like a big dysfunctional family without rules or hierarchy. The founder and driving visionary force of the company, Hans Christer “HC” Ericson, taught me everything I know in the trade.
Anders “Graffe” Grafström, from Härnösand, started there almost at the same time as I did. We worked day and night; unwinding at Operabaren bar and Restaurant Victoria in Kungsträdgården. Disco was king, but my taste leaned more toward Roxy Music and rockabilly. Skateboarding had just arrived in Stockholm.
Suddenly in 1977, the punk wave hit Stockholm from London, via Paris and New York. When Graffe and I saw punks around town, we thought they looked so young and innocent beneath their tough exterior. After I came back from a trip to Paris, I told Graffe about a trendy magazine named Façade, and that if we took portraits of the punks in Stockholm, maybe we could get those pictures published by the magazine. After talking to some punks on the street, we were invited to their private parties. We found it all very exciting, so we both began to take pictures of them—Stockholm’s first punks.
Within a month, we had a collection of portraits and showed them to Lars Hall, the Swedish advertising legend who had just started an impressive photo gallery, Camera Obscura, in Gamla Stan. “Thank you for showing the pictures, but what do you want from me?” Lars asked. Our interest in the project died. We moved on to other things. The pictures were stored in a drawer for the next 30 years.
Can you tell us a bit more about your project ‘Sthlm77’?
Thirty years later, in 2007, it felt right to revisit that moment in time and place—to find out who and where the people in these portraits were. After I printed some of my photos in a New York lab, I enlisted the help of journalist Håkan Lahger, who was able to locate and interview some of the subjects. I must say that the most interesting part for me was to meet them again.
With its completion, my project has now come full circle. Eric Ericson, the youngest son of my early mentor, HC Ericson, was one of the main motivating forces that brought the project to completion. I see this project as a photo documentary about a small, unique group of very brave youngsters who dared to be pioneers before the punk wave became established in Stockholm.
What does photography mean to you?
Photography is just another tool to express myself.