Johan Österholm


Johan Österholm was born in 1983. He lives and works in Stockholm, Sweden.

Johan Österholm uses photography as a medium for reflecting on evolving conceptions of what constitutes a nightscape and what counts as “darkness.” He approaches the subject of light pollution and nocturnal illumination as a kind of historian of light, carefully combining archival material and archaic photographic processes with the glare of artificial city lights as well as the more enigmatic light of the full moon, which conceals details even as it reveals contours. His work is often influenced by the history of photography and archaic photographic processes, which he adopts for their ability to speak to something that lies beyond the present day: of the traces that previous generations have left behind, and those that we ourselves will leave. Formally, he adopts different approaches and modes of depiction, but cosmological and civilisatory aspects are always interwoven in them.

In his Lunar works – a series of moon-related works starting in 2014 – he uses naturally occurring nocturnal illumination to activate obsolete objects by exposing them to the glow of the full moon. This system was first used by Österholm to bring new life to glass negatives and positives that were created by his great-grandfather in the early 1900s, which depict the night sky. Next, he collected shards of glass from abandoned greenhouses, coated them in silver gelatin, and transformed them from collectors of sunlight into moon gatherers. These glass plates were later installed in the photographic sculpture Structure For Moon Plates and Moon Shards.  

Beginning in 2018, during a residency at Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Österholm shifted his focus to include artificial illumination and its impact on the night skies. Urban illumination means that a star-filled night sky becomes inaccessible to more and more people all over the world due to light pollution, or the fading of our collective night sky. In Österholm’s works Antique Skies and Untitled Lantern Pieces, he uses the light fitting of a street lamp to make analogue prints from historical negatives in his studio, reproducing such sections of the night sky that have become invisible as a result of light smog of the 20th century. The artist uses archive negatives produced at the end of the 19th century and exposes them with the help of the aforementioned street lamp onto pages torn from 19th-century books about astronomy, prepared using a light-sensitive emulsion.


Antique Skies Collages

Marble Orb

Some Moon Walks

Moon Plate Prints

Structure for Moon Plates and Moon Shards

Structure for Moon Plates and Moon Shards, 2014–15. (installation view)
Disused greenhouse glass, silver gelatin emulsion, light of the full moon, wooden structure. 200 x 190 x 70 cm. Installation view from The Camera’s Blind Spot III: LA CAMERA. On the Materiality of Photography, Palazzo De‘ Toschi, Bologna, 2016.

Luminous Reign (Toppled)

Lantern Smashers

Untitled Lunar Negative

At Days Close (Dresden Lantern)

Lantern Pieces

Silver Transmutation



Enlightened Bloom

Luminous Bud



Master of Fine Art, Malmö Art Academy 2014-2016

Bachelor of Fine Art, Umeå Academy of Fine Arts 2010-2013

Gestaltande Fotografi, Gamleby School of Photography 2009-2010


Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden

Hasselblad Foundation, Sweden

Gothenburg City 

The Public Art Agency Sweden

European Investment Bank, Luxemburg

Iaspis, Stockholm, Sweden

Mannheimer-Swartling Collection, Sweden

Private collections in Sweden, Europe and USA

Awards, Grants and Residencies

The Edstrandska Foundation’s Grant, 2021

The Swedish Cultural Foundation in Finland, 2021

Two Year Working Grant, The Swedish Art Council, 2021

IASPIS, Stockholm, 2020

The Swedish Art Council’s International Exchange Grant, 2019

Helge Ax:son Johnson Grant, 2019

Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin, Germany, 2018

PLAT(T)FORM Fotomuseum Winterthur, 2017

Anna Kockum Grant, Malmö Art Museum, 2016

EIB Artists’ Development Programme mentored by Darren Almond, European

Investment Bank, Luxembourg, 2016

One-year working Grant, Swedish Art council 2016

Helge Ax:son Johnson Grant 2015

The Portfolio Review Award, Landskrona Fotofestival 2014

Swedish Arts Council’s International Grant 2014

Ester Lindahls Travel Grant 2014

XX CSAV Artist Research Laboratory. Tacita Dean – Comoggardising – The benefit of creative indolence, Fondazione Antonio Ratti, Como, Italy 2014

Taller Tacita Dean, Fundación Botín, Santander, Spain 2013

The Baltic donation’s International Grant, Umeå Universitet 2012

The Baltic donation’s International Grant, Umeå Universitet 2011

Ragnar och Birgit Åhléns Grant 2011


Ad Nox, Ad Lux, Aber Press, Malmö, 2021 (essay)

Space Works, Tampere Art Museum & BackLight, 2020

Space is the Place, Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin, 2019

OSMOSCOSMOS, Centre de la Photographie Genève, 2019

C/O Berlin Magazine, essay by Caroline von Courten, 2018

Camera Austria “Forum”, September Issue, 2018

BE Magazine 25, essay by Jens Asthoff, 2018

Monopol Magazine , “Watchlist”, May Issue, 2018

The Polaroid Project: Art & Technology, Foundation for the Exhibition of Photography, Thames&Hudson, 2017

Capture Photography Festival 2017 (Editorial essay), 2017

Malmö Art Academy Year Book 2016 with MFA thesis Objects in the Rear-View Mirror, 2016

Screens and Mirrors, 2016

LA Camera:Sulla materialità della fotografia/On the materiality of photography, Italy 2016

Lucida Journal, Queensland Centre for Photography, Australia 2015

Catalogue FIVE, Grundemark Nilsson Gallery, Germany 2015

Unseen Photo Fair (cat.) The Netherlands 2015

Landskrona Fotofestival (cat.) Sweden 2015

Sight. So Close. fotogalleriet [format] & Breadfield, Malmö, Sweden 2015

Archive of Visions and Actions: Contemporary Art from Sweden, Imago Mundi 2015

Eyelid Reports, Fondazione Antonio Ratti / Mousse Publishing 2014

Kite Aerial Photography, Umeå Academy of Fine Arts 2014

New Nordic Photography, Hasselblad Foundation 2014

Vårsalongen, Liljevalchs 2014

SET RISE Bachelor of Fine Arts, Umeå Academy of Fine Arts 2013

Solo Exhibitions

The Stars Below, Galleri Box, Gothenburg, Sweden

Night Lights (Project Room), Galleria Monica De Cardenas, Milano, Italy 2019

Apparent Magnitude, Dorothée Nilsson Gallery, Berlin, Germany 2018

Under Dark Skies, fotogalleriet [format], Malmö, Sweden 2017

Peculiar Motion’s at Dusk, KHM Gallery, Malmö, Sweden 2016

Family Portraits, Landskrona Photography Festival, Landskrona, Sweden 2015

The Others Fair, Turin, Italy 2014

Group Exhibitions (Selection)

Vista Point. Re-connecting Nature, Kunstverein KunstHaus Potsdam, Germany 2020

Space Works, Tampere Art Museum, Finland 2020

Ethereal Dwellings (duo with Gonçalo Sena), Alta Art Space, Malmö, Sweden 2020

The Polaroid Project: At the Intersection of Art and Technology, MIT Museum, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA 2019

Space is the Place, Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin, Germany 2019

OSMOSCOSMOS, Centre de la Photographie Genève, Switzerland 2019

The Polaroid Project: At the Intersection of Art and Technology, McCord Museum, Montreal, Canada 2019

Photo Basel, Dorothée Nilsson Gallery, Switzerland 2019

Moonlight, Hasselblad Center, Gothenburg, Sweden 2019

Back to the Future, The 19th Century in the 21st Century, The Mai Manó House, Budapest, HU 2019

Back to the Future, The 19th Century in the 21st Century, C/O Berlin, Germany 2018

Sculptural Landscape, Copenhagen Photo Fair, curated by Trine Stephensen, Copenhagen 2018

The Polaroid Project, The Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg, Germany 2018

Jamais laisser les photos trainer, Galleria Monica De Cardenas, Milano 2018

Back to the Future, Foam Museum, Amsterdam, NL 2018

The Polaroid Project, Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Texas, USA 2017

Galleri Arnstedt, Östra Karup, Sweden 2017

The Primal Shelter is The Site For Primal Fears, The Living Art Museum, Reykjavik, Iceland 2016

Edstrandska Foundation’s Grant Exhibition, KHM Gallery, Malmö, Sweden 2016

Flyktpunkt, CFF, Stockholm, Sweden 2016

Screens and Mirrors, Borås Art Museum, Sweden 2016

La Camera, On the Materialilty of Photography, Bologna, Italy 2016

Unseen Photo Fair, Grundemark Nilsson Gallery, Amsterdam, NL 2015

Breadfield Gallery, Malmö, Sweden 2015

AIPAD Photo Fair, Grundemark Nilsson Gallery, New York, US 2015

FORMAT International Photography Festival, Derby, UK 2015

Process as portrait (duo with Gisa Pantel), H. Bergdal Gallery, Malmö, Sweden 2014

Vårsalongen, Liljevalchs Konsthall, Stockholm, Sweden 2014

Konstforum 50 år, Konstforum, Norrköping, Sweden 2014

New Nordic Photography, Hasselblad Center, Gothenburg, Sweden 2014

Corso Aperto, Fondazione Antonio Ratti, Como, Italy 2014