08 December 2008

invited photographer: erik lindegren

"If slaughterhouses had walls of glass, the whole world would be vegetarian." (Linda McCartney)

Walls of glass
Erik Lindegren is the photographer who decided to trace back the journey of a shrinkwrapped steak. He photographed dismemberment procedures, the scalding of the dead animals, the cut throats and the actual killing. There, on the other side of the food chain, he met the pigs full of despair in their waiting. The reality of the slaughter houses shocked him and made him change his eating habits. Now he exhibits his work so that more people will get a closer look at how their dinner is produced.

Frustrated, shocked and angry. That’s how photographer Erik Lindegren describes his feelings after his visit at the slaughter house. He had long since had a vague notion that something was not quite right, but he still ate meat and didn’t bother himself to think about it any further. Then suddenly he decided to find out how the steak gets to his plate.
- I was prepared for something without really knowing what it was…I suppose that at some level I wanted to prove to myself that it is wrong to take their lives. I’ve always had a strong feeling about what is right and wrong, he says.

But he couldn’t just step into a slaughter house and pull out his camera. The first time Erik called to some of the slaughter houses in Sweden, they consequently said no. After having called Åke Rutegård, the managing director of the Meat- and Butcher association, and told him that he wanted to take pictures of slaughter houses for artistic use, he was referred to a contact at Dahlberg’s slaughter house in Bråvalla.
- I told him that I wanted to follow the production “from animal farm to table” and eventually I got permission to do that, despite the fact that the people at the slaughter house were very suspicious. I got to the see the whole procedure, starting at the end. The further back I got in the process, the more unscathed the pigs looked.

Erik Lindegren says that he will never forget the images of the slaughter house and the anxiety that prevailed there.
- It was very painful to be there and watch the pigs, realizing that they had given up completely. It was obvious that they somehow knew what was about to happen. They were steered in their corrals, refusing to move at their own will. A man was beating them with a stick and at one time he hit a pig so hard that it squealed loudly in pain. There was such an immense anxiety in there. On my part as well; it felt like the smell of the blood was penetrating my very soul.

In the slaughter house, the dead pigs were hung right above the pigs that were still alive – the ones waiting for their turn. Erik Lindegren stood next to them and saw how the throats of the dead pigs were cut and the blood was pouring out on the tiled floor.
- Many of the pigs that were waiting were caught by panic when they saw what was happening to the other pigs. Just as the dead pigs were hung in front of them, they backed away quickly. Some of them just stood there, paralyzed, breathing heavily.

When Erik Lindegren started his project his idea was to document the dismemberment process for his own sake; to get a clearer image of reality.
- But when I got there I was so shocked and I am still angry. I am angry because it feels like everything is fake. Humankind is so nice, people are supposed to be so nice, but apparently that does not include other living beings. Also, when I tell people about this no one wants to know, he says.

But the photographs from the slaughter house speak for themselves. After Erik Lindegren had put down his camera, emotions swept over him and he eventually called the Swedish animal rights association Djurens Rätt.
- I want these images exhibited so that everyone can see them. Everyone should know how animals are treated and how much suffering there is at the slaughter houses.

Written by Lina Flyrén.

All photographs © Erik Lindegren

For more information, please visit animalrights.se. You can find the whole series Walls of glass at wallsofglass.se.


Lina Nääs said...

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah! (great)

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Great and important series Erik.

Anonymous said...

please. it is an important issue but this is not a political blog. its a photography blog. and this is not good photography.

Anonymous said...

Strong documentary photography indeed !


Johan said...

Passar bra nu när vi börjar närma oss jul, och så här nära inpå rapporterna om skyhöga dioxinhalter i griskött från Irland!

Mattias said...

I'm very curious about why this is not good photography. If I got a comment like that on my work, I would like an explanation about what is so bad about it, and at least have a name to respond to. To leave an anonymous comment like that is not very good manners in my opinion.

Personally I think the series is good and important. I'm just a bit annoyed that Erik was first ;-)

/Mattias Lundblad

Anonymous said...

explanation why i find this "not good photography":

first of all, the idea isn´t bad. but the quality of the photos isn´t good. its just pictures from a slaughterhouse. it is obvious that he has been there a short time only, maybe just one day.

the portraits of the animals are anonymous, like they are just another pig or cow. i cant see any sympathy to the animals from the photographer, but maybe thats what erik wants. to just put it out there for the world to see what it looks like in there, as a registration. straight on. but then i would like to see even more. i mean, rougher and more bloody and dirty. with flash maybe.

mattias, why do you think the series is good and important? if i got a comment like that on my work, I would like an explanation...

i dont want to hurt anyones feelings, but this might have been the first non-praising comment in the history of this blog. this should be a room for discussion about what we think is good/bad photography.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Tatiana. Strong documentary photography indeed.

Anonymous said...

Well, if you look at the whole series, there are indeed more "feeling" photos of the individual pigs. A good question is however how much symphathy we as viewers have with the animals in the pictures?

Political, well no, not really, in themselves. It is reality.

Inevitably, they will however evoke discussion. Hopefully a good discussion - and some reflection?

marcin górski said...

it has nothing to do with politics. Photography just reflects the world. It's like with literature, you have single poems, novels but also the documents. Erik's pictures are definitely not beautiful but still show piece of our reality. Why not to show it? Finally why not to discuss about it? As well poems as novels or written documents are just giving an asumpt for further discussion. Photography is about everything, everything is about photogrphy.
btw, we

Jan Buse said...

Both sides now.

I don´t think that the real issue here is whether these photos are good or bad, and its certainly not about if its ok for a person to be anonymous or not. Of course it is.

The real issue is that the F-blog staff recently characterized a great deal of the images at the F-blog as being too “nice”, too “slick” and “tame”. The F-blog staff also implied that a majority of the contributing photographers doesn’t “want” anything with their images, and that the solution (obviously) is to publish more “political photography”.

This anonymous statement from the staff can only be described as a stab in the back to all the dedicated and talented image makers that has contributed with so many fascinating, interesting and, yes beautiful pictures, during the years that the blog existed .

The description of political photographers as being the only ones (?) that “wants” something, and that beautiful images doesn´t have any other purposes than just being pretty, is incredibly ignorant and rude. And all this from a web site that describes itself of being without prejudice and that it wants to evoke interest for photography as an art form. Yeah right.

Yes, this is all about politics, more precise, the politics of the F-blog.

Anonymous said...

Important documentary photography!

Erik L said...

Why is it that only human suffering is good photography?
This is a documentation of a swedish slaugtherhouse nothing else!

Erik Lindegren

Jeanette said...

It´s really interesting to see how sensitive issue this is. I thought that we have left the question about being art or not cause now "almost everything or anything can be"... Why making the border less fuzzy? Why not keeping our mind open and see the big point of photography in all it´s levels, perspective, genres and point of views.

Mattias said...

Thanks, Anonymous.
Well, why I find the work good and important:
first of all, Erik has managed to get a discussion going (for example on Fotosidan). For me that is an indicator in itself. It is possible that the images could have been taken with a flash or be developed in urine or whatever. In this case I don't find it important, the series has something to tell me something anyway.

If I did this project, I would probably do it more abstract, but Erik's choice works fine for me.

But thanks for explaining, it makes more sense now. And for sure, this should be a forum to express opinions about different qualities.