STOCKHOLM, July 6, 2012 /CNW/ -Lennart Nilsson turns 90 on the 24th of
August and can look back on an unrivalled career as a photojournalist.
He is unique as an educator with a camera, he has been called "a
renaissance man in the twentieth century" and he has been compared with
the universal genius Leonardo da Vinci.
In the 1960s, Lennart Nilsson was employed at Life Magazine and broke
new ground on the border between the scientific and the artistic with
his story about how a child is born.
In 1965 his cover story for Life became an all-time bestseller and his
book A Child is Born was published that same year, a book that has
since been translated into more than 20 languages (the latest being
Chinese), has been published in five editions - 1965, 1976, 1990, 2003
and 2009 - and has sold millions of copies.
And that sensational cover story, "Drama of Life Before Birth", which
we've all been part of but which none of us remember, was just the
beginning of Lennart Nilsson's tireless exploration of the human body
and the miracle of life.
Since then he has continued to surprise and amaze us by using his own
ideas and new technology - custom built cameras, tiny fibre optics and
Lennart Nilsson's exploration of the unknown began in the Swedish
countryside, in an ordinary anthill, and continued with his adventures
under water, which resulted in two books - Myror and Life in the Sea
which were both published in 1959.
Lennart Nilsson sees his biggest challenge as being able to explain the
unexplainable and to make the invisible visible - his latest work
having involved viruses, particles in the air and bacteria in a bee's
honey stomach. And he usually says that it takes three things to
succeed: patience, patience and patience.
- Time doesn't matter, it's the result that's important!
Lennart Nilsson is just as curious about the wonders of nature today as
he was when he was 15 years old and got his first close-up look at
cells through his newly purchased microscope.
Lennart Nilsson was also in a class of his own as a press photographer
during the 1940s and 1950s. In 1945 he followed a midwife who had
delivered 1,500 children in the Swedish mountains, a story that was to
become his first but by no means his last to gain wide publication
In 1947 he told the tale of the Norwegian hunt of polar bears which was
also a story that gained a lot of international attention, and "tears
and protests were heard in many languages". The following year Lennart
Nilsson spent nine weeks travelling round the French and Belgian Congo
on the lookout for all things dangerous and wild. And in Rome he got to
visit the home of Ingrid Bergman and the new love of her life, the
Italian director Roberto Rossellini. The year was 1950 and the romance
caused many headlines - not all of them flattering, but they sold many
newspapers. Lennart Nilsson reported dramatic pictures from the great
flood disaster in Holland in 1953 and was there when Swedish diplomat
Dag Hammarskjold was appointed as the secretary-general of the UN the
One of Lennart Nilsson's classic stories was about the Salvation Army.
For months he followed the soldiers of the "army of love", and among
other things he was there at the very moment that an alcoholic man was
saved. The pictures were widely published in both Swedish and foreign
newspapers - and in the book Halleluja, which was published in 1963.
Lennart Nilsson has photographed portraits of many people, both famous
and unknown - royalty, authors, actors, scientists and leading
businessmen as well as "ordinary people" in a series of work reports.
He has a natural ability when it comes to winning people's trust and
getting close to them.
When Nikita Khrushchev visited Sweden in 1964 there were seven people
seated around Tage Erlander's dinner table at Harpsund - apart from the
guest of honour himself there was also the Swedish Prime Minister, the
Soviet and Swedish Ministers of Foreign Affairs, two interpreters and
Lennart Nilsson. He was introduced as an old friend of Erlander and was
up until the wee hours exchanging small talk and toasts with the Soviet
While the assembled press corps had to make do with photographing
Erlander's "crown prince" in front of the Houses of Parliament in 1964,
Lennart Nilsson accompanied Olof Palme home to his house in Vallingby
and took pictures of a loving father and his football-playing sons. And
when Ingmar Bergman was shooting a film on Faro, Lennart Nilsson
succeeded in capturing the director and his entire team in a group
photo. Following Bergman during the making of "Shame" was much like
following game - "you have to keep your eyes and ears open at all
times, nothing can be arranged, just click, look and listen".
No photographer has moved us with his stories quite like Lennart
Nilsson. When the TV news showed pictures of what we have on our teeth
- enlarged to 100,000 times the actual size - the Swedish people choked
on their evening coffee, and all the toothbrushes in the stores sold
out the next day.
His pictures are to be found on money and stamps, in textbooks and
encyclopaedias, and some of them are currently on their way out into
space, aboard NASA's space probes Voyager I and II, as part of a
greeting from planet Earth.
The photographer whose motto is that nothing is impossible has been
richly rewarded during the years for his photographic, journalistic and
Lennart Nilsson is an honorary doctor of both medicine and philosophy,
he has been given the title of professor and has received gold medals
from the government, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and the KTH
Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. He was the first recipient
of the Hasselblad Award in 1980, has received the title Master of
Photography and has won the World Press Photo and three Emmy Awards,
the TV world's Oscar, for his films. And just in time for his own 75th
birthday the "Lennart Nilsson Award" was instituted in 1997, an
international award for a photographer who works in the spirit of
Adjunct Professor in photography at Mid Sweden University
SOURCE Scanpix Sweden
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