The Swedish independent photographer Moa Karlberg, who finished her studies of photojournalism at Nordens Fotoskola Biskops-Arnö, in her work focuses on people and their stories, placing special emphasis on authentic human expressions.
The artist deals with human facial expressions in two of her projects, each in their own way exploring to which point is it (still) acceptable to enter someone else’s private life, and how to use photography to capture a genuine human expression, commonly associated with an intimate experience that an individual may not be willing to share with others, and on an even rarer occasion to reveal it in front of a photographer.
In her project Watching You Watch Me (2009) the author photographed random passers-by through a reflective shop window, capturing people’s expressions while they were watching themselves, not realizing they were being photographed. The photographer was interested in how close she could get to other people and photograph them without their knowledge, while still acting in accordance with formal legal laws. Swedish legal code permits photographing people in public areas, regardless of them being aware that this is happening. However, their photographs must not be used for commercial purposes and can only be made public as part of a reportage or art project. The author therefore carried out her project mainly because she could, while at the same time wanting to provoke a deliberation regarding the role and personal ethics of a photographer; about what his or her motivation is, with what purpose and within what context the photographs would be displayed and whether or not the rights of the photographed people would be taken into account and would be respected.
The author tackles a similar dilemma in her project Hundred Times the Difference (2012‒2015), which she could, unlike taking photographs without consent, carry out only with explicit consent from others. The photographer captured intimate expressions of women during the various stages of childbirth, which for many represents the most intense experience of their lives. In the beginning, the author wondered whether the expressions made by women during childbirth were comparable, while later focusing her project (only) on the search for a genuine expression, which gave it a much broader societal significance. The research was upgraded by intercultural comparisons between Sweden, where the rate of maternal mortality during childbirth is among the lowest in the world, and Tanzania, where this rate is almost one hundred times higher. Even though their expressions during childbirth do not differ, by presenting photographs of women giving birth in Sweden and Tanzania, the author wanted to draw attention to the differences in health care that women receive in Europe as opposed to Africa. Although in a physiological sense all childbearing women go through the same stages of childbirth, the external conditions in which they do so vary greatly, depending on which part of the world they live in, and this fact being closely connected to their survival rate.