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Tractor Boys [Hardcover]

Martin Bogren , Christian Caujolle

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Book Description

13 Jun 2013
Youngsters meet up on the village outskirts, racing their tractorcars, burning tyremarks into the warm summer asphalt. The smell of rubber, oil and souped-up engines fills the air when the engines speed. The cars form into a circle as the boys take turns in the middle. It is a game - showing their skills - showing off to the girls. Strength is measured and proved - as if in a strange ritual mating dance. The car of choice is known as an EPA tractor, a Swedish term for an older car converted for use as an agricultural machine. These became common in the 1930s and were previously called 'car-tractors'. During the 1950s EPAs had almost died out as new tractors had come down in price and become more available. The EPAs were almost forgotten until youths discovered that the EPA law offered them a way to drive, even as 15 year-olds - and so during the 1960s and 1970s they became increasingly popular in rural areas. Tough rules are in force to restrict the gearing on the cars and their speed is supposed to be limited to 30 km per hour. There is also no suspension on the rear wheels, making them extremely uncomfortable to drive at high speed. However, the boys are skilled with cars and very creative when it comes to finding ways to bypass these legal and physical restrictions that limit the power and speed of the engines. The solutions they come up are numerous and are closely guarded secrets.

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About the Author

Swedish born Martin Bogren first came to attention in 1996 with his book on the Swedish band, The Cardigans, who he photographed over several years while touring with the band. He has since published two photobooks, Ocean and, most recently, Lowlands. A winner of the prestigious Scanpix Photography Award in Sweden he has been exhibited throughout Scandinavia as well as in France, Ireland, Portugal, India and USA. Christian Caujolle is one of the France's leading curators and critics. A founder of Agence VU he has curated major festivals such as PhotoEspana, Rencontres d'Arles and Foto Biennale Rotterdam, and his extensive writings on photography have been published worldwide.

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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A small masterpiece of a photobook, grainy, cinematic, like a half-forgotten dream 13 Dec 2013
By James Casper - Published on Amazon.com
This is one of those rare photobooks that captures a time and place so perfectly that we feel we know it even though we have never been precisely there. It’s the magic of photography to take specific moments, fleeting, in-between moments, and evoke universal memories and emotions that trigger something like half-forgotten dreams deep inside our selves.

Young boys in their early teens in the remote region of Skane, Sweden, have a ritual of gathering together in a large deserted field at night (some with their girlfriends) to drive souped up old cars at crazy speeds, in circles, kicking up dust and snow and the smell of burning rubber and oil and gasoline. It’s a coming of age, and it’s sweet and innocent. And in between the shows of bravado, they hang out, laugh, talk, fall asleep, safe and isolated in their own play world before they grow up and move on with life.

What is amazing is how the photographer Martin Bogren, a quiet thoughtful middle-aged man, befriended these young people (without becoming one of them), and then seemed to have become invisible as he captured so many intimate and cinematic moments with his film camera. There is no judgment, no celebration, just bearing witness with a sensitive artist’s eye.

The grainy black and white images, each almost perfect in itself, build quietly to tell a richly-faceted story. This book reminds me of the opening sequences of Wim Wenders’ movie “Wings of Desire”, where the angels record their testimony and wonder as they overlook the everyday experiences of mortals on earth. Another, different reference comes to mind, too, that of Peter Pan and his gang who never want to grow old.

This book is a small masterpiece. Highly recommended.

— Jim Casper, editor, LensCulture
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