Johan Österholm


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

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.


Untitled Lantern Pieces

Silver Transmutation

Antique Skies Collages

Marble Orb

Some Moon Walks

Moon Plate Prints

Structure for Moon Plates and Moon Shards

Luminous Reign (Toppled)

Lantern Smashers



Enlightened Bloom

Luminous Bud



2014-2016 Master of Fine Art, Malmö Art Academy, SE

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

2009-2010 Gestaltande Fotografi, Gamleby School of Photography, SE

Solo Exhibitions (selected)


Radiant Clusters, Dorothée Nilsson Gallery, Berlin, DE


Luminous Reign, Kosminen, Helsinki, FI

The Stars Below, Galleri Box, Gothenburg, SE


Night Lights, Galleria Monica De Cardenas, Milano, IT


Apparent Magnitude, Dorothée Nilsson Gallery, Berlin, DE


Under Dark Skies, fotogalleriet [format], Malmö, SE


Peculiar Motion’s at Dusk, KHM Gallery, Malmö, SE


Untitled (Family Portraits), Landskrona Photo Festival, Landskrona, SE

Group Exhibitions (selected)


Adjacent Hour, Olseröds Konsthall, Olseröd, SE


Untitled Lantern Pieces, Landskrona Sculpture Park, Landskrona, SE

Edstrandska Scholarship Exhibition, Malmö Art Academy / KHM2, Malmö, SE


Photons (From the Sky to the Sea), Galeria e Bregdetit, Vlorë, AL

Space Works, Tempere Art Museum, Tampere, FI

Vista Point: Re-connecting Nature, Kunstverein KunstHaus Potsdam, Potsdam, DE

Ethereal Dwellings, Alta Art Space, Malmö, SE


The Polaroid Project: At the Intersection of Art and Technology, MIT Museum, Cambridge, US

OSMOSCOSMOS, Centre de la Photographie Genève, Geneva, CH

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

Moonlight, Hasselblad Center, Gothenburg, SE

Back to the Future, Mai Manó Ház, Budapest, HU


Back to the Future, C/O, Berlin, DE

Sculptural Landscape, Copenhagen Photo Festival, Copenhagen, DK

The Polaroid Project, The Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg, DE

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

Back to the Future, Foam Museum, Amsterdam, NL


The Polaroid Project: At the Intersection of Art and Technology, WestLicht Museum of Photography, Vienna, AT

The Polaroid Project: At the Intersection of Art and Technology, Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, US

Galleri Arnstedt, Östra Karup, SE


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

Edstrandska Foundation Grant Exhibition, KHM Gallery, Malmö, SE

Flyktpunkt: New Swedish Photography, Centrum for Photography, Stockholm, SE

Screens and Mirrors, Borås Museum of Modern Art, Boras, SE

La Camera: On the Materialilty of Photography, Palazzo De’ Toschi, Bologna, IT


Map of the New Art: Imago Mundi, Luciano Benetton Collection, Fondazione Giorgio Cini, Venice, IT

Annual Exhibition, Malmö Art Academy, Malmö, SE

Sight. So Close. Breadfield, Malmö, SE

FORMAT International Photography Festival, Derby, UK


Process as portrait, H. Bergdal Gallery, Malmö, SE

New Nordic Photography 2014, Hasselblad Center, Gothenburg, SE

Corso Aperto, Fondazione Antonio Ratti, Como, IT

The Spring Salon, Liljevalchs Konsthall, Stockholm, SE


Tacita Dean Workshop Exhibition, Villa Iris, Santander, ES

SET/RISE, Umeå Academy of Fine Arts, Umeå, SE



Antique Skies, Bored Wolves, edition of 500

Awards, Grants and Residencies


The Edstrandska Foundation’s Grant, SE

The Swedish Cultural Foundation in Finland, FI

Two Year Working Grant, The Swedish Art Council, SE


IASPIS, Stockholm, SE


The Swedish Art Council’s International Exchange Grant, SE

Helge Ax:son Johnson Grant, SE


Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin, DE


PLAT(T)FORM Fotomuseum Winterthur, CH


Anna Kockum Grant, Malmö Art Museum, SE

Nordic Culture Point’s Mobility Grant, FI

The Swedish Art Council’s International Exchange Grant, SE

Working Grant, The Swedish Art Council, SE

The Edstrandska Foundation’s Grant, SE

EIB Artists’ Development Programme, Luxembourg, mentored by Darren Almond, LU


Helge Ax:son Johnson Grant, SE


The Portfolio Review Award, Landskrona Fotofestival, SE

Swedish Arts Council’s International Grant, SE

Ester Lindahls Travel Grant, DE

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


Taller Tacita Dean, Fundación Botín, Santander, ES


The Baltic donation’s International Grant, Umeå Universitet, SE


The Baltic donation’s International Grant, Umeå Universitet, SE

Ragnar och Birgit Åhléns Grant, SE

Collections (selected)

Moderna Museet, Stockholm, SE

Hasselblad Foundation, SE

The city of Gothenburg, SE

The Public Art Agency Sweden, SE

European Investment Bank, LU

Iaspis, Stockholm, SE

Mannheimer-Swartling Collection, SE