The Sky's the Limit

by A. D. Coleman

This 2022 edition of an established, annual, collaborative exhibition of work by a cross-section of Nordic photographers makes its debut online and in print two years after the sudden emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic that has since gone global.

We don’t yet have a catchy nickname for those who have endured this radical shift in everyday life. (GenCovid? Pandemials?), though surely that will come. But it’s safe to assume that these picture-makers, who range in age from the late teens to the early fifties, share the experience of 24 months of lockdown, masking, hand-sanitizing, social distancing, vaccinations, face-to-face work lives and school lives and social/personal lives gone virtual — possibly even the serious illness and death of friends, acquaintances, and loved ones. Whatever their differences, they have this ongoing ordeal in common, which makes them part of a de facto demographic cohort — along with all the rest of us.

In response to this year’s exhibition theme, these emerging photographers turn almost uniformly to the natural world as a source of spiritual replenishment and hope, a metaphoric path forward. While a few of their images got made in domestic interiors, the “social landscape” — the urban and suburban and rural environments inhabited by others, not just oneself — appears here only in a black & white image by Stig Hansen of people ascending a set of concrete steps. A starscape, nighttime and daytime skies, forests in various weather conditions, woodland floors seen close-up … the tranquil world that Nina Stenberg, Jack Rannström, Madelene Boehm, Amelie Weckman, and Elliot Cederquist show us is a largely depopulated one.

If these photographers see the future not as bleak and foreboding but as peaceful and enticing, then, it would seem that depends on the absence of others. The few images that involve the direct human presence (by Hansen, Kim Warren, Camilla Kjellberg, and Elsa Lönnehed) portray moments of isolation, solitude, and contemplation. With these notable exceptions: Einar Jarl Björgvinsson, Joseph Cardenas, Guðmundur Óli Gunnarsson, and Arnfríður Ósk Jónsdóttir all address the elephant in the room — the pandemic — by utilizing what has become the universal symbol thereof, the suddenly ubiquitous face mask.

Imagining what comes next, these staged images suggest, requires confronting the here and now, including the possibility that COVID-19 may become a permanent feature of the social landscape in one form or another. If the pandemic has taught us how to live by ourselves, truly surviving it will involve re-learning how to live with each other, to resume our lives as social beings.

In one of Jónsdóttir’s images, two people’s hands reach out diagonally from opposite sides of the the frame, as if searching for touch. The distance between them seems great. Yet the effort is underway. Perhaps that is all of us now, learning again how to connect.


Bio note:

Based in New York, A. D. Coleman currently celebrates his 54th year as a critic, historian, and theorist of photography and photo-based art. His blog, Photocritic International, appears online at

© Copyright 2022 by A. D. Coleman. All rights reserved. By permission of the author and Image/World Syndication Services, [email protected].