The Rebel in the Photographer


The Drottningholm Palace is the residence of the Swedish royal family since 1981. It is a UN World Heritage that origins from the 16th century (i.e. the palace, not the royal family). After a devastating fire in 1661, the present structure dates from late 17th century. In other words, the Drottningholm Palace is yet another example of the kind of old palace that they just don’t build anymore.

Going to the Drottningholm Palace with my photographer friend Anita is – once again – an experience that one does not have going alone or with normal non-photographing friends. It turns out that the Drottningholm Palace shows the real nature of a photographer – as a rebel.

For us non-photographing mortals, it is possible to take either a boat or a bus to the Drottningholm Palace. With Anita, it is only possible to take the boat. Period. This way, she can take more pictures. Which she does. Enthusiastically. No boat, building, bridge or scenery will elude Anita. Fair enough; this was expected. Seeing her turn rebellious was not.

Once arriving at the palace, there are more objects to photo. There are flowers, statues (mostly naked), more boats, and other buildings so old that they just do not make those anymore either.

Even the royal guards were shot. Not in the literal sense though. There are other ways for a photographer to express his or her rebellious attitude. Even though the Swedish royal family resides at the Drottningholm Palace, it is possible to go inside and see some sections of it. The palace’s 17th –18th-century interior decorations are unique in its kind. They also bring out the beast in a photographer. As is often the case with old interior decorations, it is not allowed to take photos. One reason for this is that the Drottningholm Palace has some unique silk tapestries which are very light sensitive and where a camera’s flash will thus be harmful to the tapestries’ colours. And here is where respect for society goes wrong.

The interiors of an old palace can be quite something – and thus very interesting to shoot. So, what does a photographer do if this is not possible? Simple. He or she does it anyway. Turn off the flash, dibble with aperture and shutter speed, ask a friend to stand between the photographer and the security guards, and take the pictures. Not only did Anita show some unexpected traits of her character, she also made me an accomplice in crime by covering her activities from the security guards.

And once this is done, she has me asking these security guards if they can open the magnificent 5 feet high windows so that she can get a better view over the gardens – which she actually was allowed to photo. This is some chutzpah she is showing.

Once done – which takes some time because not only is there is so much to shoot; one also has to take some extra time to make sure that the security guards are looking the other way – it is possible to finally go outside again. Some of the palace’s gardens, together with the palace itself, are modelled on the Palace of Versailles outside Paris. The Drottningholm Palace is however smaller and with far fewer Frenchmen around.

In the palace’s French gardens, there was a newlywed couple having their wedding photos taken. As unexpected as this was, having Anita all of a sudden also taking photos of the couple was not. If it moves, shoot it. If it stands still, shoot it too. And if it is unclear what it is actually doing, shoot it as well, just to be on the safe side. Nothing gets away from a trigger happy rebel. Not even lunch can be had without more photos being taken, albeit in a less rebellious manner this time. Only birds were shot, and my sandwich could be eaten in relative piece.

Something clearly happens when a photographer is let loose with an idea to spend the day taking pictures. And once on the boat back home, Anita reminded me of a small child. After a long and hard day, she fell asleep.

All in all, it can be quite an excitement to be out and about with a photographer. The question is of course if this is what one is looking for when going to see the Drottningholm Palace. In any case, what will really make for a great shot is if the photographer is led away by the police for disobeying the law.

This article originally appeared in the February 2008 issue of Better Photography.

Tags: Gabriel Fuchs, February 2008, The Drottningholm Palace, UN World Heritage, Swedish royal family