Review by Douglas Stockdale •
For better or worse. The marriage vows which can only hint at future possibilities. We are all usually happy about the “better“ events and there is not much to complain about. It’s the “worse” events and conditions that are an unknown and can become ominous. What defines “worse” is also relevant to our expectations, patience and tolerance. For Rikard Osterlund and his wife Zara, the physical and mental health conditions she is facing also changes over time..
Osterlund’s photo-documentary Look, I’m Wearing All The Colours is an intense auto-biographical investigation about their lives together as her conditions change. Zara, although frequently the subject, is also a willing participant in this collaboration. It is a very personal visual narrative about a layered and complex relationship dealing with the conditions surrounding the changes brought on by chronic illness.
Individual photographs can not fully reveal what might be occurring in the moment of the exposure, while some photographs seem to do this better than others. This visual challenge is all the more difficult when attempting to reveal an internal emotional condition: love, hate, dread, concern, or in the case of Zara, anxiety. Osterlund attempts to narrate these internal conditions by pairing visual metaphors with portraits to assist the reader’s understand what might be occurring. His self-portrait with red scratches on his chest is paired with drooping and wilting flowers, a photo of Zara faces a photo of towering electrical structures and power lines with a blurred indistinct background, a photograph of Zara lying in a hospital bed juxtaposition with a black & white image of stark and spiky ice crystals, another of Zara who is facing away from the camera lens, appearing try to comfort herself with a facing black & white image of her holding a bright sparking firework.
There is a nice portrait of his wife holding a bouquet of flowers that appears lovely until noticing the medical identification band still on her wrist and upon closer examination it appears she is leaving a medical facility. There are a pair of dark photographs, one of which is blurry similar to a dream (or a nightmare) which above the doorway proclaims No Way Out of Hospital, as though a terrifying omen that is paired with a self-portrait of a dark shadowy profile. Not exactly up-lifting. Osterlund also photographs moments that appear as blissful events to emphasize that for their married lives the conditions are for better and worse prevails. There are good times even in the face of adversity.
Nevertheless, although visually painful at times, this is also a poetic love story. A love story that includes many tumultuous challenges for them individually and as a couple. A love story that includes testing the boundaries of what might be worsening conditions. And a love story that is perhaps not unique to their relationship as mental conditions can change and evolve over time for many individuals and couples. This book provides a sense of hope for those dealing with chronic issues.
Look, I’m Wearing All The Colours, Rikard Osterlund, Copyright 2018
Photographer born Norrköping (Sweden) and currently residing in Rochester, UK
Self-Published: Ampigt Forlag
Essay; Introduction by Rikard Osterlund
Hardcover book, pantone colors and foiled titles, sewn binding, four-color lithography, printed in Denmark, bound in Germany.
Photobook designer: Rikard Osterlund