Freiherr Alexander von Swaine
Photo courtesy of Moderna Museet
Anna Riwkin: Portrait of a Photographer
STOCKHOLM • Moderna Museet • Ongoing
|Photo journalist Anna Riwkin documented Sweden and the world of her days. Her work has been donated to Moderna Museet by her family, and the museum has reopened the Skeppsholmen building with one of the most comprehensive exhibitions of this professional photographer.|
Thanks to her wide circle of friends, Russian-born Anna Riwkin periodically had intensive contacts with the younger generation of Sweden's and Europe's cultural elite. Her friends included the people involved in the writer groups Spektrum and Clarté, and it was Anna Riwkin who took the well-known portrait of Karin Boye at the age of 39, staring into the distance. Eventually, Anna Riwkin also started to take pictures of dancers, quickly earning a reputation as a skillful dance photographer.
The reason that Anna Riwkin stopped dancing was, in her own words, that: "I realized that I would never be a Pavlova and I chose photography instead". She did not abandon the ballet but she used both her expertise and her ballet contacts in her photography.
Finding models was, thus, never a problem for Anna Riwkin. She had an extensive circle of acquaintances herself and she was driven by a constant curiosity. She was to photograph many dancers in action, since it was precisely in her feeling for movement that she was so skillful.
Anna Riwkin started her ballet training in the 1920s with the famous Russian teacher Vera Alexandrowa. She also danced in the provincial parks that offered entertainment and was referred to in one local newspaper (Bollnäs Tidning) as "the little bare-footed dancer with an irresistible charm". But after three years as a dancer she changed direction, opening her own photographic studio in 1928-29, specializing in photographing ballet and in portrait photography. She rapidly became the leading ballet photographer in Sweden and even established a reputation abroad.
Anna Riwkin's meeting with the German dancer and choreographer Freiherr Alexander von Swaine took place in Stockholm. This was not von Swaine's first visit to Stockholm but it was his first meeting with Riwkin. And at this meeting of two artists, the photographer captured the dancer's originality and dramatic sense as well as his skilful technique. In the year that this photograph was taken, Hitler and the Nazis were in power in Germany. Alexander von Swaine was 31 years old and at the peak of his career. He was generally regarded as one of the era's finest German dancers. Alexander von Swaine was also highly controversial. He had revolted against classical ballet and he was openly homosexual; something that was, of course, forbidden in Nazi Germany.
Alexander von Swaine, with his dance partner Alice Uhlen, made a guest appearance at the Academy of Music in Stockholm in 1936. On previous visits to Stockholm he had become enormously popular. His performances were especially valued for his highly individual and surprising presentation. The audience went completely wild and their thunderous applause was accompanied by stamping on the floor.
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