Photographer Per-Olof Stolz has photographed the suburbia of his hometown Rydebäck, in southern Sweden, where his family bought a house in the 1960s. A simple documentation of the middle-class life, which tells about both prosperity and isolation.
When my parents bought their first house in Rydebäck at the end of the 1960s, was affordability the keyword. Similar-looking houses were built in rows and groups, looking like boxes on a field. As we moved into our new house, the next row of houses was built in front of our entrance.
To me, being a seven years old boy, it was like a dream. The adventure was everywhere. There was an abundance of materials at the building sites for making soapbox cars or huts, and the beach was only a five minutes ride on a bike. It was a good life. Just as safe and full of life as I think my parents had hoped for.
It strikes me, as I today walk amongst those first built houses in Rydebäck, how all the different house owners through the years have tried to make the houses, or at least the facades, into their own. A roof has been reshaped into a pagoda look, large floor-to-ceiling windows have replaced walls. The houses have been repainted and rebuilt, patios have been covered with glass walls and swimming pools seem to pop up everywhere. All in tune with how style and taste have changed during the last 50 years. On the other end of Rydebäck, where new houses still are being built, it is the modern idea of individually designed houses that applies. And the budgets are definitely different from the idea of affordability in the 1960s.
Everywhere I go in Rydebäck I meet this wish for that perfect family life, just like my parents wished 50 years earlier. To create a life in harmony, prosperity, and safety. And many of those that buy a house here today, have their roots in this place and try to create a similar life for their own family as they had themselves growing up here.
But sometimes I get a feeling that suburbia like Rydebäck is a place that isn’t in touch with the rest of the world. That the world is distant with all its conflicts, the stream of refugees, and crises. Everything and everyone seems molded into the same shape and nothing is allowed to disturb the harmony. The lawns are mowed, the kids sent to school and sometimes the neighbors come over for dinner. Saturdays are football practice, grocery shopping for the week to come, and carwash. The disasters and conflicts of the world are hardly noticed at all.
Well, there’s usually a beggar sitting by the grocery store, but that is as far as the world reaches. But of course, there must be those that care and act. They might be involved in politics, NGO’s or something similar in neighboring places. But not in Rydebäck. That’s where you live. The world is somewhere else.
By Per-Olof Stolz
By Per-Olof Stolz is a documentary photographer living in Sweden, who has been working as a freelance for over 30 years.
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