NO FILTER is a travel diary by Johanna Syrén featuring snapshots taken by strangers. This project challenges arranged holiday snaps and controlled selfies.
Johanna Syrén is a freelance photographer, gallerist and photography teacher. NO FILTER gave her the CFF traveling scholarship in 2015, a scholarship from the foundation Längmanska Kulturfonden, and support från Kulturutveckling Gävleborg. NO FILTER is part of a project regarding self-image and one’s own self. The project also encompasses an exhibition, a book and lectures for high school classes.
”It’s never been easier to manage and control the pictures of ourselves. Many of us know exactly which angle makes us look our best. Which way to stand for our thighs to look thinner and what expression is our most beautiful. Pictures where our eyes are closed or we pull a funny face are instantly deleted, and when someone else is photographing us we’re good at directing the shot. Many prefer holding the camera themselves and many selfies are taken in the pursuit of the perfect portrait. Before the picture is shown around a flattering filter is often used and annoying zits and fat is not seldom retouched away.
I wrestled with the need for control for a long time. The scale, the mirror and photographs were my enemies for many years, and I had a hard time seeing myself in pictures taken by others. This despite the fact that I’m a photographer myself and work by winning people’s trust on a daily basis. Today I am 35 years old and I’ve finally tired of this inner struggle. The struggle against ideals, against others and against myself. It is a challenge to become one’s own friend, but today I can feel a sense of pride over the face and the body that is I.
The pictures in this project challenge arranged holiday snaps and were taken during a trip to the southeast of Asia in the fall of 2014. The pictures are of me and were taken with an analogue disposable camera by strangers I met in Cambodia, Malaysia and Thailand. Only one picture was taken at a time and the person behind the camera was left to their own devices. I relinquished control and reacted to the situations that arose. My facial expressions are spontaneous, no beautifying editing has been made and no filters have been used.
A few years ago I probably would have deleted all the pictures. But all of these pictures are me. Me when I’m happy, me when I’m sad, me with no make-up on. Me for the first time photographed in a full-length portrait on the beach.
I’ve worked with documentary projects for a long time, but now for the first time I’m telling a story about myself. It feels private and I feel exposed and it’s occasionally been difficult. Thank you to those of you who have encouraged me along the way and thank you to the strangers in Cambodia, Malaysia and Thailand for the portraits and for consenting to anonymous publication.”