The Upper and Lower Classes in Swedish Wedding Photographs
Mikael Askergren © 1997
Mikael Askergren’s contribution to the group exhibition Projekt 3 at Galleri Tre, Stockholm, Sweden in January 1997 consisted of a collection of Swedish wedding advertisements published in Stockholm’s two daily morning newspapers Dagens Nyheter and Svenska Dagbladet 1995–1997. All Swedish newlyweds—both upper class and lower class—place an ad in one of, or both of these newspapers. Such ads are always illustrated with a photograph: a wedding ceremony snapshot or the like.
Mikael Askergren’s contribution to the group exhibition also constitutes his contribution to international social class research: you can always tell, just from looking at the pictures, if the wedded couple in a Swedish wedding ad is upper or lower class. For the exhibition, the great number of ads were divided into two groups according to social class (marked by stickers of two different colors), Category A and Category B according to telltale signs and social class giveaways in the photographs:
Category A tends to choose an informal snapshot for their wedding ad. The bride and groom might smile, but they never grin. The wedded couple does not direct its smiles into the eye of the camera—and thereby not primarily to the readers of the newspaper—but instead to friends and family present at the wedding, to the exclusive circle of the invited. In the case of the occasional smile directed into the camera, it has been captured as the bride and groom are primarily directing their full attention elsewhere; they are already on their way together with friends and relations to a place where the newspaper readers are not invited. Category A tends to be U (Nancy Mitford); tends to be upper class.
Category B take the trouble to go to a professional photographer’s studio, let themselves be directed by the photographer, they grin, and they look straight into the camera. Contrary to the self-sufficient elites, this category is much concerned with communicating with—and receiving affirmation from—not just family and friends, but also the so-called masses. Category B tends to be Non-U; tends to be lower class.
First image: Mikael Askergren interviewed by Ann–Helén Laestadius on the subject of Swedish wedding photographs and social class in the daily newspaper Expressen, Stockholm, Sweden, March 28, 2001.
Second image: installation view, Galleri Tre, Stockholm, Sweden, 1997. Installation by Mikael Askergren.
More by Mikael Askergren on weddings and photography:
Untitled (Woman in Wedding Dress)
Commissioned Double Portrait