Thursday 3 April 2014

1000 Words Workshop with JH Engström in Marseille, 13-17 July 2014


1000 Words is delighted to announce a workshop with internationally renowned Swedish photographer, JH Engström. The workshop will take place between 13-17 July 2014 in the port city of Marseille, immediately after the opening week of Les Rencontres d’Arles.

Marseille is France’s second largest city. Located on the southern coast, it is a wonderfully exciting and vibrant metropolis alive with a heady mix of cultures, nightlife and Mediterranean verve. During 2013 it served as the European City of Culture. An extremely visual and diverse locale, it is the perfect environment for creative exploration.


JH Engström is a leading Swedish photographer who lives between Värmland and Paris. He is best known for his influential photobooks, most notably the highly collectable monograph Trying to Dance, published in 2003, as well as From Back Home, a collaboration with Anders Petersen for which he won the Author Book Award at Les Rencontres d’Arles 2009. Engström is represented by Galerie VU in Paris and Gun Gallery in Stockholm. He was shortlisted for the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize in 2005.

His photography is marked by a distinctly subjective approach to documenting his surroundings. Born out of emotional encounters, at the heart of his work lies both an intimate connection with his subjects and expression of his own self. Critic Martin Jaeggi has spoken speaking of Engström’s pictures as having “the impression of looking at memories”.


1000 Words Workshops will take place in the heart of Marseille at Le Percolateur atelier in the Longchamp district. The workshops will be an intense and productive experience lasting five days but numbers are limited to a maximum of 14 participants. 


The cost of each workshop is £800 for five days. Once participants have been selected they will be expected to pay a non-refundable deposit of £400 within one week. Participants can then pay the remaining balance on a case-by-case basis. Participants are welcome to arrive the day before the workshop begins for a welcome dinner. The price includes:

-tuition from JH Engström (including defining each participant’s project; shooting; editing sessions; creating a coherent body of work; creation of a slide show; projection of the images of the participants.)
-a welcome dinner
-24 hour help from the 1000 Words team and an assistant/translator with local knowledge.

Participants will be expected to make their own travel arrangements and find accommodation, which in Marseille can be considerably cheap for the week. We can advise on finding the accommodation that best suits you. For photographers using colour film we will provide the means for processing and a scanner. Photographers shooting digital will be expected to bring all necessary equipment. Please note that for the purposes and practicalities of a workshop, digital really is advisable. All participants should also bring a laptop if they have one. Every effort will be made to accommodate individual technical needs.


We require that you send 10 images as low res jpegs and/or a link to your website, as well as a short biography and statement about why you think it will be relevant for you to work with JH Engström (approx. 200 words total). Submissions are to be sent to with the following subject header: SUBMISSION FOR 1000 WORDS WORKSHOP WITH JH ENGSTROM.

31 May 2014: Final deadline for applications
12 July 2014: Arrive in Marseille for welcome dinner with JH Engström
13 July 2014: Workshop begins
17 July 2014: Workshop ends



1000 Words Deputy Editor, Michael Grieve, catches up with JH Engström ahead of the workshop for a quick discussion about one of a number of his recently released photo books, Sketch of Paris, published by Aperture Foundation. Enjoy, and see you the other side of Arles in Marseille!

Michael Grieve: Your new book Sketch of Paris is part of a fine photographic, literary and filmic lineage of representation of that city from Brassai, Henry Miller, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Christer Stromholm, Robert Frank, to name but a few. How do you regard your work in this history?

JH Engström: These names have inspired me and influenced me. Then it’s later now, it’s another era. All those people have done their job. I’m still working.

MG: Why is the book a ‘sketch’ of Paris? Why a sketch?

JHE: Because a sketch is the only way I could in any way represent Paris with photographs… Paris is really ungraspable to me… Also a sketch is unfinished. It’s a first tryout. I like tryouts and unfinished expressions. The attempts... A sketch is also something that is linked to spontaneity, which I also like.

MG: The photographs in Sketch of Paris are very grounded. We never look up and it is devoid of sentiment. You appear to be consumed in it. Do you think the book is a portrait of you or of Paris?

JHE: It’s both I think. But of course very much a portrait of me, of me in Paris. And yes I am totally consumed by Paris. I could of course have that feeling of being consumed anywhere on this planet, because of the dry fact that I exist. But in Paris that feeling often hits me very strongly. Sometimes I wish it was less like that. 

MG: Is your work honest?

JHE: I hope so. I want it to be.

MG: Your work generally deals with spontaneity, chance encounters, and you seem to be guided by your unconscious. What do you think it is in your early life experience that has steered you to work in this way?

JHE: That is of course impossible to answer. I believe a lot in things that cannot be explained. I believe in having the courage to stay in the ungraspable.

MG: You once said to me that what is more interesting about the work of Nan Goldin is not so much the diaristic aspect but more how she inadvertently documents her time. We can observe fashion, décor; In this regard your work this same form of documentation?

JHE: It’s not only the question of time that’s so strong with her work of course. It’s also her fantastic way of making photographs that talk about deeply existential, human issues. To me her work is quite painful and talks a lot about our mortality.

MG: So far your photography represents lived experience from your own experience. Love, loss, joy, melancholy, uncertainty, hope and the banal constantly permeate throughout your oeuvre. What is the need to share this to an audience?

JHE: I have of course asked my self that. I don’t know to be honest. I have a necessity to do it. Maybe it’s simply a way to deal with things you mention in your question.

MG: Many contemporary photographers and artists seem to want to produce conceptualised projects. What do you think about this?

JHE: I think all photography is conceptual per definition. Therefore conceptual photography can not be defined as different from the rest of photography. But I think maybe some artists tend to lean very much on the concept.

MG: To what extent should contemporary photography practice be aware of itself, by that I mean, should it have a critical awareness contained within itself? Does your work have a critical awareness of itself and if so how?

JHE: I don’t really like to talk about what photography “should” or “should not”. Or what art “should” or “should not”.

MG: What does the aesthetic of a photograph mean to you? Is the meaning of a photograph contained within the aesthetic more perhaps than the subject/object depicted. Is it about expression rather than content?

JHE: It’s impossible to separate the two.

MG: You speak often of the emotional aspect of photographs, that your spontaneous attitude is brought about by an unconscious rather than conscious decision-making process. Do you regard a photograph of a street as equal in relevance to a sexual act or a portrait?

JHE: Yes, if you talk about “equal” in some kind of hierarchal way of thinking.

MG: I am often reminded by your work with someone like Bob Dylan, in the sense that your work is introspective, and it is both real and romantic. Therefore it collides to reveal a fundamental uncertainty. Is it fair to say that work is really about the space and tension in between the beautiful and the ugly?

JHE: You could say that it deals with tensions and the dynamics being created in those tensions.

MG: Your photographs tend to work on the level of the senses, by which we can almost taste the dust in the atmosphere, and the stale smell of bars. Is your sensory perception heightened as a result of your photography?

JHE: I don’t know if it’s heightened. But I know my sensory perception is high. And as I touched in an earlier question I would maybe sometimes like that it was a little less active…

MG: Considering your work is eclectic and on the verge of chaos how do you keep control. I imagine you take control at the editing stage? How do you edit and then sequence? Is the association between images made at this point?

JHE: I don’t think it is control, maybe more an illusion of control. And that is as you say very much done at the editing stage. My process of editing is strongly based on intuition. Once something is finished, like printed in a book, the cards have been laid out on the table and then you can’t take them back.

MG: Given the increasingly sterile nature of contemporary what do you feel is the future of the more subjective approach and really what is your definition of ‘subjective’ photography?

JHE: I think there will always be an interest for the subjective approach. The subjective photography is a method among others. And in that method the photographer uses very much of him/herself as a starting point and tool.

MG: How has your relationship to Paris changed over the years?

JHE: I’m still amazed by the city. Maybe I go to bed a little earlier now a days but it is sure that it is a lifelong love story.

All images © JH Engström, from the series Sketch of Paris.