The New Eye

The Interwar Era through the Lens


May 28 – September 26, 2021


The New Eye is a major research-based exhibition on photography and film in the interwar years. The exhibition presents around 400 photographs, film sequences, magazines and books from the era.

Between 1919 and 1939 major technological, social, political, and cultural changes took place – changes in which both photography and film played vital parts. During the interwar years, both lens media gained a growing presence and significance in everyday life, education, art, science, and news reporting. The New Eye. The Interwar Era through the Lens offers a wide selection of photography and film practices from the 1920s and 1930s. The majority of the material is from Gothenburg and Sweden, but the exhibition also covers international inspirations, trends and networks.


Inspiration from 1929

The exhibition is inspired by the photography exhibitions in the interwar era, first and foremost the International Photography Exhibition in Gothenburg shown at Göteborgs Konsthall in 1929, in which many different photographic expressions met/intermingled. Some sections showed artistic and commercial photography such as portraits, still lifes, nature and urban views. Stylistically the contributions ranged from the, at the time, well-established pictorialism, to the sharp new objectivity – although, the majority were somewhere in-between. Other sections showed scientific photography – from aerial views to microphotography – within areas such as botany, criminology and medicine. The exhibitions also contained more problematic images from the fields of ethnography and racial biology. The photographic practices of the early 20th century within typologizing, racialization, and colonization, reflect ideologies that are unacceptable today, but the exhibited images serve as reminders of how racist framings work.


The exhibition’s content

The New Eye. The Interwar Era through the Lens presents examples of the same or similar images as the 1929 exhibition and other photography exhibitions in Sweden during the period. To create a more complete picture of the visual culture, examples of films from within the same areas – such as industry, advertisement and avantgarde – are included as well. Furthermore, a range of local, national, and international events from between 1919 and 1939, that were reported through and shaped by both lens media, are highlighted.


The exhibition shows a comprehensive selection of varied material with works by established photographers and artists like August Sander, Karl Blossfeldt, Lucia Moholy, Henry B. Goodwin, Anna Riwkin, Helmer Bäckström, Arne Wahlberg, Studio Deux Soeurs, Emil Heilborn and GAN. Examples from different fields such as medical images by E.D. Schött, aerial photographs by Oscar Bladh and forensic photography by the police in Gothenburg are presented. Newsreel, propaganda and advertisement film include titles such as ‘The Electric Kitchen’, ‘The Technological Eye’ and ‘The Telephone Then and Now’. Furthermore, a large number of portraits of the film stars and cultural elite of the era is on display. Finally, examples of the period’s visual culture is included in the form of picture magazines. The works and material come from various collections and archives such as Moderna Museet, The National Archives, Gothenburg Natural History Museum and Swedish Film Industry.


The research project Thresholds: Interwar Lens Media Cultures,

The New Eye is part of the years-long research project Thresholds: Interwar Lens Media Cultures, a collaboration between the Hasselblad Foundation, HDK/Valand, and GPS400:  Centre for Collaborative Visual Research at Gothenburg University. The project studies film and photography cultures in a technologically, socially, and politically turbulent time, pursuing new ways to research and present the history of the two media. In connection to the exhibition, an anthology, Thresholds: Interwar Lens Media Cultures 1919–1939, with 18 newly written essays, is published by Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther und Franz König.


Curator and editors

Mats Jönsson, GPS400: Centre for Collaborative Visual Research at Gothenburg University
Louise Wolthers, the Hasselblad Foundation
Niclas Östlind, HDK-Valand at Gothenburg University


Collaboration with Göteborgs Konsthall

The New Eye is the first part of an exhibition collaboration between the Hasselblad Foundation and Göteborgs Konsthall, marking the celebration of Gothenburg’s 400th anniversary. In the winter of 2021–2022, the Konsthall will show the second part, With New Eyes, where themes and archival material from the 1920s and 1930s are being explored by contemporary artists. To highlight the collaboration, artist Conny Karlsson Lundgren presents the installation Göteborgsaffären: Prolog (The Gothenburg Affair: Prologue) at The New Eye, preceding his performative work at Göteborgs Konsthall during the winter 2021-2022.

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