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Stefan Bladh

The Family

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Stefan has been following a Turkish nomadic family for seven years. He is invited to stay as their friend and lives close together with them from time to time. He finds them through their mobile phone in various places throughout the country, living in cramped conditions without heat, electricity, clean water or proper sewer systems, in abandoned house skeletons and under motorway bridges. Difficulties with money, health care, and welfare rights take turns playing havoc on their lives, and every day is a struggle to keep the whole of the large family alive.

From the introduction to “The Family” by Stefan Bladh, published by Nouvel Publishing in March 2010:

“We lay beside each other like a rosary, feet next to faces. Me at the end next to big brother Ali, 20. On the other side is dad Hüseyin, 40; snoring. The little ones are tucked into the middle. Above us is the booming noise of traffic, it’s late summer and the air is raw and damp. I tug the blanket I stole from the hotel further up over my nose, but the bitter cold and the acrid stench of garbage, urine, and greasy food still gets through. Also, beyond that, the highway smell: exhaust fumes, asphalt, burned rubber. We sleep on randomly dug up carpets and blankets, our rest provided us by the viaduct’s concrete foundation. The night is jet black. I lay awake listening to the sound of stray dogs chasing rats in and out of refuse bins, accompanied by the whispering of people’s feet sneaking past us in the gravel.”



Stefan Bladh was born in 1976 in Örebro, Sweden. He is now based in Stockholm where he has been working as a professional photographer since 2002. He spends most of his time traveling and working in middle Asia and eastern Europe.

Photographer Anders Petersen states in a brief afterward of the book: “Stefan is invited both as a friend and a photographer and he is aware of the responsibility this invitation brings. You´ll find his pictures full of despair and tenderness, focusing on the humanity we share. He knows that photography is not all about photography. In the end, it is the encounter that matters the most.”

The book The Family is available from PhotoEye

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29 thoughts on “stefan bladh – the family”

  1. STEFAN,

    Congratulations. This is a magnificient essay… I was starting a list of what I felt were the most powerful images and I just stopped because the list was becoming too too long… I will still say that I particularly liked 7, 8, 19, 23 and 33 but there are so many others… Many very moving, nostalgic images… You see the misery, the difficult rough life this family is facing but you also feel the tenderness among family members…. great work Stefan!


  2. strong story telling…
    wonderful imagery…
    it has a very cinematic feel to me….
    you took me inside,
    and then
    back outside…..
    GREAT work!!!!
    thanks for this delicious treat this morning….

  3. Speechless. Excellent capture. B&W that flowed into color. Rarely see it done so well. You really captured this family and to know you were sleeping, etc., with the family really made the photos much more intimate.

  4. Heartbreaking and uplifting…rarely does an essay on a family in hard times have such depth. Congratulations and best of luck to all of you.

  5. just an opinion, but the small sequence of colour images at the end of the series feel like an afterthought, and are nowhere near as strong as the b+w images, which are compelling.

  6. Great storytelling and photography Stefan, congratulations. Seven years is quite a commitment to a story and, even though you have produced a book, I do hope you keep it going: I’d like to see what happens to everyone. I’d also like to see some captions so that I know the relationship between the subjects – especially as time goes by and parents become grandparents / children become parents etc. You just have to wish them good fortune. I found the transition photo (40) from b&w to colour very well done: it is almost monochromatic and gives a smooth move into colour. The colour photographs themselves are muted and not over-saturated, which suits the mood of the work. That said, I do wonder why you moved from b&w to colour, and then back again for the last photograph? Just curious as to your thought process.

    A general note on the essays here: I usually look at work here on a Macbook Pro (15″) and although I have the screen brightness turned up to maximum many essays look a little dull and sometimes over-processed. If I then look at essays on a 24″ I-Mac the difference is marked: much brighter with much more detail. I mention this only as a heads-up for laptop viewers. Has anyone any experience of the I-Pad viewing experience versus a laptop?

    Congratulations again Stefan and thank you.


  7. This work is amazing.
    There is a narrative ad continuity in this series.
    I agree with Ben and I think the b/w images stand beautifully on their own.
    The portraits, the landscape… they’re all really good.

  8. Some nice sequences in the story……………… some of the black and white images are overcooked for monitors, the work may work as prints on paper but images need to be altered for monitors as they are backlit. One can forgo detail for graduated tone in prints, more detail than tone is required to combat the harshness of screens. One just has to alter ones approach to suit different media

  9. Wow,
    As it started out I felt it looked a bit like James Nachtwey’s photography of the one armed, one legged man and his family living between rail tracks in Indonesia. But then as it progressed, I saw more depth into the lives of the people you have been following. It’s an interesting lifestyle. The color at the end wasn’t a great shock – It feels like it belongs. Almost as a way of giving the viewer a little more to bite into. It’s a wonderful essay.

    And the chicken head is a fun image!

  10. In looking through the comments so far, I note that not one person has stated an opinion that this needs to be tightened, or that there are too many images, or images that are repetitive and not necessary – and this for the essay that I believe contains the most images of any that I have seen here.

    So I think that says something for the power of your essay, right there. And I am glad, too,

    Very strong and powerful essay. One thing that I like about it is that so many contemporary essays venture into a hard place (or even a soft place) and then make a point to show only misery and despair. You show real, genuine, hardship, yet show us people laughing, loving and being tender towards each and towards kittens.

    A + star, right there.

    I would have liked to have seen some more word information.

    Also, I supposed that I should note that I looked at this full-screen on Apple Cinema monitor and at that size many of your images become very, very, coarse – beyond your intent, I think – but still they come across and so it was okay.

  11. I find the essay absolutely amazing!
    I don’t mind at all the colour sequence at the end, I could read it in a million ways: The family dealing with their day-to-day life in the populated streets, or more…

    I would not imagine that yet another story of urban poverty could move me, but Stefan photos are truly beautiful and communicative. Real and romantic. Dynamic but thoughtful. No doubt there’s a great deal of compassion and maturity.

  12. Excellent work. Thanks. My only quibble is with the sequencing. When I first started watching it I thought that maybe the entire essay came from a single shoot under the same overpass. Judging from the trees in the background, I guess a lot of it did. Still, from a storytelling perspective, given that they are modern nomads, I think it might be more powerful to split up and mix the underpass, urban and rural landscape photos to give the viewer more of a sense of the family traveling from one place to another. Personally, I liked the color photos. Seemed more like a revelation than an afterthought.

  13. I really enjoyed this essay and didn’t think the number of images was repetitive. However, the coloured section didn’y work for me. I could see them as B&Ws though.

  14. This is so moving.

    I love what you have done here, and agree with pretty much all of the comments so far.

    The first time through viewing, I knew I needed to let it sink in, think, view again, think some more.

    I still need more time to digest, but my thoughts so far are very much in line with what has already been stated. Amazing, beautiful, heart wrenching, insipirational, not too many images at all. I am very impressed and humbled.

    Just to get the tech stuff out of the way, yes, I agree, the colour images would be better converted to black and white. The colour adds nothing and only looks like an afterthought. and yes, a little too “gritty” overall. A bit of overkill.

    Still, the content rises above all.

    Wonderful stuff.

  15. Stefan – I’ve long been familiar with this project and with many of the images – but it touches me as much now as it did on first viewing. Very nice seeing you here and am looking forward to seeing your work for years to come. All the best, erica

  16. a beautiful, meditative essay on both the conditions of how some families, regardless of difficult and seemingly insurmountable adversity, are able to survive with stalwart determination and resourcefullnes and the compelling hope and brilliant capacity for love/joy that possess us….

    i love the use of the landscape/cityscape photographs within the narrative as they act both as visual cues and chronological device…the first image is magnificent (i’d love that one too in my portfolio, and see it as a very large print), but the abstract images serve the viewer as a way to ‘move’ through time and location, as Stefan introduces the idea of their nomadic wanderings through these images…as it appears that each new landscape image moves the family to another location and also to a different time (chronologically) of growth….the children are growing up….it also serves as a subtle way of seeing how time has affeted their faces and their lives….the one girl who appears to be the center of this story grows up, matures, wizens,….but also becomes sadder, more ‘judgmental’ to us, the viewer: look what i have survived she seems to be suggesting, and you?…..

    the use of the color pictures also makes perfect sense as they seem, again, to serve as chronological device…to take the viewer away from the ‘past’, away from a certain classical nostalgia and into the present…i may be wrong, but the color pictures appear to be the ones most ‘present’, most recent….so in a way, we get the sensation of a not only a family album, but also of a linear understadning of this familiy’s life…..they’re necessary as they become a framing device…b/w the past, color the present…the real juxtaposed with the remembered….no where is that better illustrated to me than the first color (the dawn, after the long b/w dream-memory) and the chicken head picture….

    my only lament is that the fierceness and the power of the b/w images are so strong that, in a way, the color pictures seem ‘less’…less visually compelling, less startling, less breathtaking…maybe this is part of the distinction….the remembered for the present…who knows…or maybe it is simply the power of the b/w’s abstract qualities….their visual appearance….the proximity to dreams….i do prefer the b/w here, not because of their ‘classicism’ (who cares about that), but because their ability to evoke, suggest is just more personal…then again, there is that brilliant chicken picture…both funny (in the way the strange brutal humor of life is apart of all our lives, and especially that of children) and sad…innocence in the face of death….

    anyway, congratulations stefan….i too had seen some of these images prior and i want to congratulate you for a thoughtful, humane and beautiful series…and book…

    and picture 26 is a remarkably large photograh…just iconic…reminding me both of Koudelka’s picture of the funeral and teru k’s work from afghanistan/pakistan…..

    beautiful, thoughtful, humane…


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  18. STEFAN – congratulations!
    Really glad to see your work here on BURN. Bought your book a few months ago, just blew me away!
    Excellent stuff! Congrats again!

  19. Surfing around to find one picture I stumbled over this:

    Great, very nice to see the book handed over to the family!

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