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Who photographs the photographer? Johan Dehlin

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Jan-Carlos Kucharek

Johan Dehlin’s dramatic photograph combines Juergen Teller, his studio, and Japanese rock band Bo Ningen. But who is the subject?

Looking like a modern-day version of Velázquez’s Las Meninas crossed with a Japanese rendition of a Greek plate-smashing kefi night, there’s no disputing a lot’s going on here. Is the subject 6a’s studio for photographer Juergen Teller, or is it four-piece Japanese psychedelic rock band Bo Ningen, extracting their weapons from builders’ sacks dumped outside the just-completed building? Is it Juergen Teller, on the right in the blue T-shirt, his back to the viewer, ­capturing their antics? Or, unseen, is it Johan Dehlin himself? 

The Swedish-born photographer was also the building’s project architect during its design stages from 2011-2013, when he returned to Stockholm to set up his own firm. His had been a good education. After a spell at OMA, where he worked under model­maker/designer/photographer Frans Parthesius, he took a Masters at London Met with photographer David Grandorge. Dehlin was, perhaps unwittingly, all the while honing his fascination in the inextricable connection of architecture to scale, its image and the viewer.

Returning in 2016 to shoot the studio, he found it very much as he expected. Getting light in was a fundamental requirement for the 60m deep site and Teller had been open to the architect’s desire for a garden courtyard separating the studio’s public and private sides to help do that. He’d just leave an umbrella by the door, Dehlin recalls him saying. 

It is this garden that most impressed him on his visit, turning out better than he’d imagined. The green among the concrete has ‘lent an extra dimension to the design’, muses Dehlin. ‘It has the feeling of left-over ruins.’ And the dimension? One more component to his architectural triumvirate – time itself. 

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