And the Art from the Cradle of Mankind
By: Filip Svensson | February 25, 2022
’I can’t help noticing it looks just like a giant penis right next to you,’ I say as I admire what can only be described as an ’African wall’ behind Björn, adorned with masks, shields, spears, and possibly a giant penis. ’Well it’s actually a fertility symbol from Mali, so it was a pretty good guess’ answers the world-renowned
photographer that is Björn Persson, who has published several books, exhibited in the prestigious Royal Albert Hall in London and is currently on display at The Swedish Museum of Natural History with the exhibition The Thin Line.
Björn picks up the giant symbol, holding it with both hands for support and continues: ’It has a magical meaning, and that’s what’s so fun, that they have been used in rituals. And it’s an amazing hobby to collect these items. To get really nerdy. I read books all day and know the meaning of every mask and every tribe.’
It is immediately clear to me that this is no ordinary photographer.
And that I have so many questions.
– ’How come Africa?’
– ’It all started by chance, I went down there with a friend who had gotten a job in Cape Town. So I tagged along and found a job at a pizzeria. Later we started traveling South Africa and that’s when I discovered nature, and the animals. And everything changed. Especially during my first encounter with an elephant.’
’Something happened, within me. I felt incredibly inferior.’
’The elephant approached our car and leaned over, looking straight at me with those wise amber colored eyes. And something happened, within me. I felt incredibly inferior. Like a mosquito. And that moment became something I wanted to explore. The feeling of being inferior, and helpless. As humans we often put ourselves on piedestals, above
nature, but when you’re standing next to an elephant… you’re filled with a sense of reverence, and respect – which is fantastic. And I still feel this way when I encounter a wild animal. And here somewhere my interest was born. I wanted to learn more about the animals, and that’s how it all started… I mean, I have been photographing since I was a child and I have always had an interest in painting as well. But my interest turning towards photographing animals, portraying them, it started with an interest in the animals themselves.’
’You have to love what you’re photographing’
’Later on I went to Kruger National Park’ continues Björn, ’and trained to become a ranger and even worked at an animal hospital. This has given me a good foundation. As a photographer you have to love what you’re photographing in order for it to be genuine, and great. I wouldn’t be a very good portrait photographer, or interior photographer…’ >>