by John Kimmich-Javier
Kristin Wigley-Fleming Fine Arts Gallery, Center for the Arts
March 26 - May 20, 2007
John Kimmich-Javier has traveled the world photographing diverse cultural and architectural symbols of history from the pyramids of pre-Columbian civilizations in Central America to opera houses in Europe to the Moorish architecture of North Africa and Spain. Among his recent assignments was a tour of Sweden to photograph palace interiors. Taking its title from Kimmich-Javier’s latest book, “Silence to the Light: Photographs of Swedish Architecture and Interiors,” the exhibit displays the eloquent simplicity of the photographer’s images of familiar structures of historical and architectural significance, captured from decidedly unfamiliar viewpoints, in atypical light, or at unusual times.
One of the best-kept secrets in Europe is the richness of the Swedish architectural interiors from the Medieval to the Neoclassical periods. Lacking the often flamboyant expressiveness found in the facades of the period architecture of other European nations, such as France, Italy, and Spain, the exteriors of Swedish architecture do not inspire awe. Yet, true to the Scandinavian character, the wealth of the culture is revealed when one goes beneath the surface.
"Architecture has always been at the core of my creative and professional life since I began photographing over twenty years ago. Similarly to photographers in the 19th Century, I perceive architecture as the mirror of a collective society, and photography as the means to explore, examine and interpret other cultures.
My interested in producing a documentary photographic project on Swedish interiors began in 1986 when I first traveled to Sweden to gather materials for travel articles and to arrange for exhibitions of my photographic work. While in Stockholm during this first visit, I made arrangements through the Royal Palace Offices to photograph the interiors of Stockholm Palace and Drottningholm Palace, the residences of the present Swedish monarch. Later I would also visit and record other royal palaces such as Haga, Tullgarn, and Rosendal. These palaces were a total surprise.
Entering these spaces, I felt as if time has been frozen. Walking through these still rooms, one is followed by the slow deliberate pulse of a clock drifting through a silence that is broken only by the discreet echo of the tolling chimes announcing the passage of time. Eventually the past can be heard speaking in soft muted voices. It is as if these places were still alive. Inside these buildings one is permitted a unique glimpse into Sweden's past and perhaps its soul. This is an extraordinary situation for a photographer. These Swedish spaces, like Paris did for Atget, offer an opportunity to create a body of images that not only records these sites but that could also pierce the veil of time.
For over two decades, I continued to travel to Sweden to photograph more palaces, manors, churches and other architectural spaces, creating a large archive consisting of thousands of negatives. Utilizing photography’s documentary qualities and potential for creative expression, I strive to make images that present a vision of places that have survived the ages and are still alive. These photographic images record the elusive and fleeting light that inhabits these spaces and illuminate what could have been a moment in another age. They are stolen glimpses of moments that from the past. The interiors begin to resemble dramatically lit stage settings. The statues and furnishing in the rooms resemble actors in a play. The images become lines of a poem that bring the soul of these interiors out of the silence into the light."