I read an essay once about writing fantasy fiction. The key to it was to define a set of rules and then after that to stay true to those rules. Pigs may fly as long as they always fly. The worlds that Swedish photographer Erik Johansson’s creates are marvelous fantasies. When you first see them they look quite normal. Then as your minds eye zooms out to take the whole image in, your sense of the normal becomes challenged, and you start to realize that something is amiss. Your bed sheet is not made of snow. Water does not pour from the frames of seascapes. You can see a collection of his clever images on the msn site or, and perhaps better still, at Johansson’s own website.
I have several favorites, starting with “Stryktalig,” which means “tough” and shows aman ironing his pants and himself. It is odd because I find myself more troubled by whether the man is burning himself than I am with his gradual transition from being two to three dimensional. What are we to make of “Wet Dreams on Open Water,” the woman rowing her bed on a lake with floating pillows and an ominous sky? This is very dark and threatening. We have been given entrance to someone’s, presumably the woman’s, private nightmare. “Common Sense Crossing,“the right side up and downside up street is so so reminiscent of M. C. Escher’s famous lithograph “Relativity.” It raises the same questions about the meaning and reality of topography.
Finally consider another inside out world, that of “Arms break, vases don’t,” Here some one has dropped a vase on the floor. the vase remains intact, but the person’s arms have shattered, and you worry not so much about the incongruity but rather about the possibility of his cutting his bare feet on the broken shards. Just when you thought that you understand the world, Erik Johansson has magically altered reality. Just when you thought that you know the limits of photographic creativity, Johansson has thought outside the box and shattered those very limits!