In his book Unsettled City, Danish photographer M.H. Frøslev chronicles his nights in Russian metropoles. Ten years of photography, between feverish roaming and sweet intimacy.

“Unsettled city is the story of people finding love in the dark streets of metropoles, where nights can either save or destroy us”. Those words, by M.H. Frøslev, a photographer born in Copenhagen in 1988, perfectly convey the atmosphere of his book. Dark, indeed, are his pictures. But from this darkness may spring light and tenderness, madness and blood. From these images, almost all grainy and black and white, emerges a genuine love for his subjects: his friends, his mistresses, his brief encounters. The fire of intoxication and the warmth of pleasure come alongside them, too.

But before those roaming came an escape. In search of himself, M.H. Frøslev left his native land and flew to Moscow, a box of film in his suitcases. In the Russian capital, he sought to reinvent himself, to become someone he’d like to be. He spent five years there, compulsively photographing his daily life. “My method is simple, the photographer explains. Get up late, put on good shoes and never forget your films and camera before closing the door. I’ve done this every day for the first few years, working 15-hour sessions.” He left the streets of Moscow to settle in another city: Saint-Petersburg, where he continued his photographic project for five more years.

Understanding one’s feelings

At first, M.H. Frøslev’s images could be viewed as social. In his journeys, he not only chronicles his daily routine, but document the lives of people of the night – often marginal. From the themes he tackles, we could compare him to one of the Five of Boston (whose most popular representative would be Nan Goldin). Paintings of intimacy and proximity with the subject are indeed at the heart of Unsettled City.

Influences we perceive in the work of the artist, who used to be the assistant of Jacob Aue Sobol, from Magnum Photos. But it would be reductive to acknowledge only that. M.H. Frøslev’s pictures are all shaped by personal experience. Like he told Danish journal Politiken: “My presence is expressed by trembling and blurry images, describing the emotions that I carry: nostalgia, anxiety, love or admiration (…) I use photography because it helps me understand my feelings.”

 

Unsettled City, publié chez Disko Bay, 53€, 128p.

© M.H. Frøslev