About the Photographer

Swedlund, Charles

American, b. 1935

Charles Swedlund was born 1935 and grew up in Chicago, where he studied photography at the Institute of Design (ID) in the late 1950s. Earning both undergraduate and graduate degrees at the school, Swedlund was taught by Aaron Siskend and worked alongside classmates such as Joseph Jachna, Kenneth Josephson, Ray K. Metzker, and Joseph Sterling. Swedlund, like all of these men, went on to become an accomplished photographer and teacher, and he shares with them a graphic sensibility that reflects their education at the ID. At the same time, Swedlund pursued his own distinctive interests and he is perhaps best known for his experimental nude photographs using multiple exposures.

In his intitial photographs using multiple exposures, around 1960, Swedlund depicts ethereal, overlapping nude figures against a dark black background. Later in the decade he began to photograph figures within natural landscapes, alone or in groups, so that their surrounding environment contributes to the picture's formal and metaphorical effects. In each case, Swedlund produced the layered images in the camera, rather than in the darkroom by sandwiching negatives or other deliberate printing techniques. "This distinction is important to me," he noted in 1973, "I like and foster the associations produced by accidents or vaguely controlled situations rather than the ones consciously constructed."

In 1971 Swedlund began working as a photography instructor at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. He joined the faculty two years later and was a professor in Photography and Cinema Department until his retirement in 1999.