by Tom Horgen

WDir. Jan Troell

When you live and die by the click of a camera, the moment is everything.

“That’s why we take pictures – we want to look at time.” So says Georg Oddner, the renowned Swedish photographer and subject of the documentary “Presence.”

Now 80 years-old, Oddner captured enduring images of a plethora of significant moments in his 50-year career. His friend, filmmaker Jan Troell, shapes this documentary by bringing Oddner back to his most cherished photographic locations – the sidewalks of New York, the Swedish countryside and his mother’s homeland, Russia. Troell, who directs the film in the grip of nostalgia, is a distinguished artist himself, often garnering acclaim as Sweden’s greatest filmmaker next to Ingmar Bergman.

Oddner’s career encompasses a wide range of work. Fashion photography made him famous. But it is his travels around the world and the moments he caught in portraits and landscapes that leave a mark on your memory. Of the pictures we see in “Presence,” his photographs of the Vietnamese people during the war years are some of his most harrowing and memorable. Many of them are of children and families burned and mutilated from the fires of war. As Oddner looks back on these photographs of innocent bystanders, he’s able to see the strength in their faces, even though their bodies are broken. “A fantastic people,” he says.

Oddner spent much of his adulthood enjoying the privilege of simply observing life. It’s refreshing to see a man so appreciative of the much-less-fortunate subjects he so often photographed.