This exposition, which is composed as a

timeline, contains the research outputs of the PhD dissertation The Objectivity Laboratory: Propositions on Documentary Photography.

The PhD consist of the following material

presented on this site:


2016 — Zero Point Energy (artwork)

2018 — The Science Question in Feminism (artwork)

         — A World Made by Science (artwork)

2021 — Dear Truth: Documentary Strategies in Contemporary Photography (curated exhibition project)

2022 — The Objectivity Laboratory: Propositions on Documentary Photography (a book, or kappa)

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Click on image to play.


Zero Point Energy


Format: Video, single-channel, color, sound, 18:39 minutes.

Year: 2016

Exhibition premiere: Moderna Museet in Stockholm and Malmö, Sweden. The New Human, 2016.

Curator: Joa Ljungberg.


Additional information:

Director Kerstin Hamilton

Produced by Kerstin Hamilton and Jonas Hannestad

Music composed and performed by Lena Nyberg and Emma Ringqvist

Choreography and dance Anna Asplind

Production coordinator and editing Patrik Johansson

Cinematography Victor Nyåker and Camilla Topuntoli

Location sound Patrik Johansson, Lena Nyberg and Camilla Topuntoli

Additional mixing and mastering Amir Shoat

Color grading Nikolai Waldman

Cast Astghik Adamyan, Amin. A Banaeiyan, Marlene Bonmann, Simon Bonmann, Maria Ekström, Oana Georgescu, Gavin Jeffries, Juliane Junesch, Maria Karani, Anna Malmros, Sobhan Sepheri, and Jing Wang


Filmed at the Nanofabrication Laboratory at Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden.



The Science Question in Feminism



Format: Seven digital montages printed on birch plywood mounted in glass vitrines, each 21×29×22 cm.


Year: 2018


Exhibition premiere: The Riga Biennial of Contemporary Art (RIBOCA1), Latvia, Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More2018. Chief curator: Katerina Gregos.

Exhibition view Dear Truth: Documentary Strategies in Contemorary Photography. 






b. 1878, VIENNA

d. 1968, CAMBRIDGE


Meitner realized and articulated the physical process of nuclear fission. Nuclear fission was subsequently used by the military industry in the development of nuclear weapon. In the US, the research mission code-named The Manhattan Project was initiated in 1942, with the aim of developing the first atomic bomb. Meitner declined involvement in the project, stating “I will have nothing to do with a bomb.”


Meitner was nominated for the Nobel Prize a total of 48 times but never won.






b. 1915, TURKU

d. 2001, TURKU


Liisi Oterma was the first woman in Finland to obtain a PhD degree in astronomy. She discovered over two hundred small planets and three comets. One of her major discoveries was the comet Oterma, which was captured as a barely noticeable object on a photo plate in 1943. In 1971, she became director of the Tuorla Observatory at the University of Turku, the largest astronomical research institute in Finland.





D. 1985, RIGA

Lidija Liepiņa was part of the research team that developed the first Russian gasmasks during World War I. She attended the Moscow Higher Women's Courses at a time when women were prohibited from entering universities. She became the first Latvian woman to receive a PhD, as well as the first woman to become a professor in the USSR. Her research concerned the corrosion of metal and colloid chemistry.





d. 2004. RIGA


Emilia Gudriniece recognised the potential of vegetable oils as biofuels and initiated the study of rapeseed oil refining in Latvia. In the 1950s, she was associate professor and dean at the State University of Latvia in the Chemistry Faculty, followed by the position as science pro-rector at the Chemical Technology Department of the Riga Polytechnical Institute. 1992-1999 she was president of the Latvian Association of University Women.




b. 1929. LENINGRAD

d. 1991, TALLINN

Ljubov Rebane attained her PhD in Physics and Mathematics from Leningrad University in 1961. She specialised in laser spectroscopy and studied the absorption of supersonic waves in polymer solutions. Rebane and her associates discovered the persistent spectral hole-burning in 1974, which opened up novel perspectives for high-spectral resolution spectroscopy.




b. 1902, ELVA



Magda Staudinger made significant contributions in the development of macromolecular biology. Her particular focus was on the cell membranes of marine algae. She conducted in vitro studies and published scientific papers frequently from the 1930s to the 1950s. As the president of the International Federation of University Women in the 1960s, she worked for more recognition of female scientists.






b. 1931, DAPŠIAI

d. 2009, MAŽEIKIAI


Ragulskiene’s research exposed and illuminated new phenomena of non-linear vibro-impact systems. She was the co-author of six research monographs, two hundred research papers and ninety-seven patents. Vyda Ragulskiene was the first woman to become Dr. Habil. of Technical Sciences in Lithuania.

A World Made by Science


Format: Series of nineteen photos mounted on aluminium, each 70×100 cm.


Year: 2018


Exhibition premiere: The Riga Biennial of Contemporary Art (RIBOCA1), Latvia, Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More2018. Chief curator: Katerina Gregos.

Exhibition view Dear Truth: Documentary Strategies in Contemorary Photography. 

Top image: photo by Vladimir Svetlov. Courtesy of the Riga International Biennial of Contemporary Art. 

Botton image: photo by Ivan Erofeev. Courtesy of the Riga International Biennial of Contemporary Art.



Dear Truth: Documentary Strategies in Contemporary Photography


Format: Curated thematic group exhibition and exhibition catalogue.


Year: 2021


Exhibition venue: Hasselblad Center, Gothenburg, Sweden


Participating artists: Laia Abril, Mathieu Asselin, Lara Baladi, Kerstin Hamilton, Karlsson Rixon, Bouchra Khalili, Frida Orupabo, Trevor Paglen, and Taryn Simon

Video introduction Dear Truth (click to play).

Exhibition Text


The times we live in have been characterised as a period of post-truth – one in which fact-based truths are often replaced by so-called alternative facts. Emotions and personal beliefs are used to sway public opinion at the expense of science-based arguments.


In photography, objectivity and truth have been debated since the 1980s, and the once widespread idea of photography as a neutral representation has been discredited. Portraying other people’s lives is challenging and there is the constant risk of exoticisation and exploitation. Documentary photography has therefore long been subject to criticism, but in the last twenty years, the field has undergone a change. Today, photo-based artists are approaching social issues with new strategies and an awareness of their own role in forming narratives.


This exhibition explores how nine contemporary artists approach ideas of truth, facts, and objectivity, and how they – guided by ethical reflections – make urgent matters visible. Their work portrays some of the most challenging issues of our time: human rights, the environment, democracy, migration, technology, and violence. The projects are rooted in social realities – but they do not attempt to represent reality. The artists step into the world, turn to archives, and nuance established views. Here, the truth plays a central part – not as an authoritarian or neutral vision, but as a starting point for socially engaged contemporary art.


Curator: Kerstin Hamilton, PhD candidate in Artistic Research at HDK-Valand, Gothenburg University


Download the catalogue by clicking on the image to the right.

Video introductions and video interviews with a selection of the artists were made in conjunction with the Dear Truth exhibition.* The videos were presented at the Hasselblad Foundation website together with installation images from the exhibition and texts about the artists and artworks.** 

*Since the exhibition period was substantially shortened due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the video material and the catalogue, which was distributed free of charge, were important for the dissemination of Dear Truth.  

**For the video interviews, students at the photography program at HDK-Valand at the Gothenburg University prepared questions in workshops that took place in the autumn of 2020 and spring of 2021.


Mathieu Asselin’s photo-based examination of the multinational biotechnology company Monsanto focuses on the devastating effect of toxins introduced into the landscape by Monsanto. The ambitious, five-year undertaking that started in 2011 gave rise to images that serve as reminders of personal suffering and environmental destruction in the wake of one company’s pursuit of profit. Asselin says, “Everybody has their own truths, depending on their moral grounds. The full story is that Monsanto did good things, too. I am choosing to tell only one side of the story because I believe nothing that Monsanto has done good can make up for all the bad things that they have done.” He photographs scenes in the present and adds depth by digging into Monsanto’s advertising history. Archival images that communicate idealized Monsanto visions make up a substantial part of Asselin’s work, entangling the fictitious, dreamy corporate scenarios of the past with new photographs that testify to real traumas in the present.

Video Interview with the Artists: Part I (click to play).

In the first video interview, Mathieu Asselin and Sergio Valenzuela Escobedo share their thoughts on the work with Mathieu’s large-scale project Monsanto: A Photographic Investigation, which is a part of the exhibition.


Interview questions by Marie Barthelsson, Joachim Fleinert and Armand Tamboly.

Video introduction to Mathieu Asselin's work in Dear Truth (click to play).

Frida Orupabo’s images are firmly rooted in a montage tradition: “I am interrogating myself, my perceptions and ideas about race, gender, sexuality, class, and culture.” She places her work in the realm of personal familiarity. But the personal is profoundly and purposefully entangled with collective experience. She states, “A main focus is on how black women are portrayed and perceived and, further, the consequence of these ways of seeing.” Orupabo makes montages because they enable her to explore gender: “I am interested in the body—specifically the black female body; how it is interpreted, talked and written about, and how that affects me/us.” With a master’s degree in sociology and a background as social worker, Orupabo reflects, “Sociology, very simply put, looks at how we impact and create society, but also how social systems shape and impact us. I believe this informs all my work.”

Video Interview with the Artists: Part II (click to play).

The second video presents an interview with Frida Orupabo where she reflects on the material aspects of making collages and on how her images relate to dominant ways of seeing and depicting.

Interview questions by: Emma Neha Bobeck, Vera Jörgensen, Camila Manuelsdotter Pino, and Sofia Sandqvist Marjanen.

Video introduction to Frida Orupabo's work in Dear Truth (click to play).

Video introduction to Trevor Paglen's work in Dear Truth (click to play).

Video Interview with the Artists: Part III, (click to play).

In the third video interview, Trevor Paglen shares his thoughts on why he works with photography.

Interview questions by: Alexander Nico Ingversen, Sebastian Kok and Oskar Söderman.

Trevor Paglen’s images are commonly photographed from a distance and typically unoccupied by human bodies. The human presence is instead evoked in the material traces of technology: “Materials themselves have stories embedded in them.” In the work, of which a portion is shown in Dear Truth, the internet is in focus. Paglen’s investigation into the physical aspects of something as seemingly abstract as the internet and mass surveillance required him to learn how to scuba dive. He traced the locations of the underwater cables that transport ninety-eight percent of the world’s data across the globe, and the photographs give us a glimpse of a sphere that is normally hidden. Paglen’s photographs, that visually connect with landscape painting, expose the scenic landscapes in front of him, or indeed above or below him: he lures the viewer into seeing and reflecting upon the overlooked. His refusal to settle for quick and easy solutions has led him to challenge the technological properties of the camera, to experiment across disciplines, and to enter into pioneering collaborations.

Lara Baladi engages with the montage tradition and describes her poetic and pressing work ABC: A Lesson in History as “inspired by 1950s propagandist educational books.” Her images are vividly blue in colour: “Each plate is printed on watercolour paper using an analogue [photographic] process: cyanotype. These cyanotype prints, reminiscent of the blueprints of engineering drawings, inscribes the ABC as the core language—and structure—to engineer a revolution.” In January 2011, Baladi was one of the hundreds of thousands of people across Egypt who took to the streets in protest against President Hosni Mubarak. “In the context of Tahrir Square, in a country where photography had been banned in most public spaces until 2011; where if you were photographing you were assumed to be an Israeli spy; where (anti-camera) propaganda helped generate paranoia, fear, and mistrust between people… literally overnight, the camera became one of the most efficient ways to counter the state and its security apparatus.”

Video introduction to Lara Baladi's work in Dear Truth (click to play).

Video Interview with the Artists: Part IV, (click to play).

In the last of the video interviews, Lara Baladi speaks about her latest work ABC: A Lesson in History and the role of social media in a present marked by post-truth and polarization.

Interview questions by: Thurea Al-Rahbi Håkonsson and Johan F Källman.

The subjects in Laia Abril’s works are rooted in the gruesome, often invisible experiences of women such as rape, eating disorders, and unsafe abortions. Her projects are time-consuming; she deliberately opposes the short-lived reports in newspapers. Dear Truth includes selected parts of On Abortion, the first chapter of the long-term series A History of Misogyny. Every year, unsafe abortions lead to the death of tens of thousands of women around the world. The women who undergo hazardous abortions do so not because of insufficient medical and technological knowledge, but as a consequence of society’s religious and political motivations. Trust and responsibility are crucial to Abril: “You are always faced with the possibility of making a mistake when you are working with other people’s lives. It is a stressful situation as an artist and a great responsibility.” Women’s mental and physical health is continuously jeopardized, which Abril puts in context by juxtaposing historical conditions, material equipment, ideological incitements, and personal testimonies.

Video introduction to Laia Abril's work in Dear Truth (click to play).

Kerstin Hamilton’s work The Science Question in Feminism focuses on women in the history of science and addresses the discrimination that continuously impacts what and who is prioritized in scientific communities. The images are obvious constructions—they don’t mirror reality: “Gender discrimination is a subject that is visually difficult to capture in a ‘straight’ photograph. Making montages was a way of availing myself of the limited existing photographic material of these twentieth-century scientists. The technique also made it possible to introduce visual indications of the researchers’ scientific achievements, placing the portraits in a context.” A selection of works from the series A World Made by Science are also included in the exhibition. They explore ways in which science permeates the world, with special attention to contemporary female scientists, ground-breaking nanotechnology and its role in battling climate change as well as the rise in antibiotic resistance.

Video introduction to Kerstin Hamilton's work in Dear Truth (click to play).

Video introduction to Taryn Simon's work in Dear Truth (click to play).

Taryn Simon’s series A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters I–XVIII is a multi-layered body of work that consists of eighteen chapters. The chapters record bloodlines, implying that “we are all ghosts from the past and the future.” Over the course of four years, Simon spent a vast amount of time travelling to a significant number of geographic locations with seven cases of photographic equipment. In line with a long portrait tradition, she photographed people straight-on as they look into the lens. In chapter VII, presented in Dear Truth, the narrative is of a bloodline interrupted as a consequence of genocide. The Srebrenica massacre, which is the deadliest war crime in Europe since World War II, took place during little more than a week in July 1995 in the city of Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina. In Simon’s work, we are introduced to a family deeply affected by the massacre. The photographs help the viewer comprehend a family shattered by war and speaks of the power of the photographic medium to relentlessly produce and reproduce—and to remind us of histories that should be remembered.

Mother Tongue is the first chapter of Bouchra Khalili’s video trilogy The Speeches Series. Each chapter follows a different format, respectively articulating one of three concepts: language, citizenship, and labour. The chapter presented in Dear Truth attends to language and is narrated by five migrants who live in Paris and have been invited by the artist to recite literary and political texts. Khalili explains, “Each of them chose the piece she/he is performing. They translated and memorized those fragments. So what the viewer is watching, is literally a performance.” Born in Morocco, where the official history was in the hands of colonizers and the political regime, Khalili emphasizes the importance of private, intimate storytelling—what she refers to as “living archives”—to expand official histories. Her works can be seen to facilitate a reclaiming of history from the dominant voice.

Video introduction to Bouchra Khalili's work in Dear Truth (click to play).

Karlsson Rixon’s and historian of ideas Mikela Lundahl Hero worked as volunteers in a refugee camp in Greece. The resulting work which is shown in Dear Truth started “as a reaction to how people in the margins today are gathered in camps. So far, I [Karlsson Rixon] have made a couple of works on these situations, and in all of them I try to reflect my own position as a photographer—for example white, queer and Western—and what it means to work photographically based on these positions.” The work that grew out of their time in the refugee camp consists of photographs and texts. Some of the photographs are cropped into circles that claustrophobically mimic a peephole: The view is masked and the people—predominantly children—are often facing away from the camera. The images make no attempt to offer comprehensive insight; they don’t bring us close or pretend familiarity with the situation that they depict. But they are intimate and touching in a subtle and unassuming way, facilitating gentle observations rather than sanctioning objectifying voyeurism.

Video introduction to Karlsson Rixon and Mikela Lundahl Hero's in Dear Truth (click to play).




The Objectivity Laboratory: Propositions on Documentary Photography


Format: Kappa 


Year: 2022


ContextThis doctoral dissertation is No 91 in the series ArtMonitor Doctoral Dissertations and Licentiate theses, at the Faculty of Fine, Applied, and Performing Arts, University of Gothenburg 


Blurb: At a moment in history when “post-truth” and “alternative facts” epitomize the political circulation of doubt and distrust, The Objectivity Laboratory: Propositions on Documentary Photography explores truth and a “situated objectivity” as radical tools in the artist’s approach of urgent matters in the world.

Click on image to download the kappa which is part of the PhD submission.