Deserted places and creative destruction

Jan Jörnmark looks at his photos projected on the wall and seems still amazed of what happened. Around thirty people are sitting in the room, waiting for him to continue. ”I am an Associate Professor in Economic History at Göteborg University, I have written many books during my time, piled in heaps in the caches of the University – no-one reads them” he tells us with a warm Karlstad dialect. And he looks at the photos again and laughs. ”And then I started this project….”.

He was interested in deserted places; houses, areas, businesses, places that told a story, that had once been full of activity and was now, due to circumstances and changes in society, deserted. He started photographing these places. The photos show destruction, there is a feeling of abandonment around them, faded glory of once prosperous businesses and activities.

Capitalism is in constant change. Something is destructed, something else created, he tells us. If you don’t add new value to things, they will loose what was once valuable and be destroyed. There is an enormous demand for cultural value and therefore also a potential in adding this to old things to get something new. Jörnmark’s project is a typical project created in the new globalized economy. He started a website where he put all his photos. The interest was enormous. Around 20.000 visitors each month, comments of around 300. It’s the logic described by Chris Anderson, the Editor of Wired that described the new economy in globalized society in the book The Long Tail a few years ago. Internet is free. Money will not be made in traditional ways, instead Internet create new businesses and new products. For Jörnmark the product was the book he produced of all the photos he put on the website (where you find them free of charge). One book has become two books, which have been read and sold in masses. Many lectures and exhibitions have been held. A new book is on its way. Money is made. Sub cultures have been created around the project. It’s a success story that surprises him so much, that he still, even after a few years, is amazed of what happened.

Jan Jörnmark was one of several interesting speakers on the seminar this weekend (20-21 of March) at Jonsered Herrgård outside Göteborg, held by the Foundation for the Future of Cultures (Stiftelsen framtidens kultur) and Lokal Kultur on the topic ”Creative Industries and Involuntary Entrepreneurs”. For the programme, look at this post. Nätverkstan is working on a project based on the ideas of the Long Tail, have a look here.


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