Calle Ballonka

In his hometown, the legendary photographer and Gothenburg profile Calle Ballonka was known as much for his eye-catching look – long hair and a beard running wild – as for his work behind the camera. His career as a photographer grew out of an interest in autograph hunting; he acquired his first when he was 12, from Swedish heavyweight champion Ingemar Johansson. This signalled the start of a long and dedicated hunt for celebrity autographs – his collection is said to have numbered no less than 8 000 autographs, among them legendary names such as John Lennon, Muhammad Ali and Mick Jagger.

Calle Ballonka, whose real name was Carl-Erik Janson, bought his first camera in 1963, at the age of 17. He began photographing the celebrities he met and the next time he met them he had his picture with him and got it signed. It turned out that Calle also had a talent for photographing – the pictures became so good that newspapers began publishing them. And many of the artists he photographed liked his pictures so much that they bought copies of them for their own use.

In Calle Ballonka’s vast picture archive, which has been acquired by Premium Rockshot, there are photographs of all sorts of famous people: politicians, authors, royalty, but of course also a great number of artists. For example, The Beatles, Agnetha Fältskog of ABBA, and Jimi Hendrix, who Calle met twice, the first time at one of Hendrix’ shows. “I liked ‘The Wind Cries Mary’, so I went backstage and met him during the break. He took his time to tell me about the song.” Calle’s picture of Liza Minnelli, which was taken with a light bulb as the only lighting, was published on the front page of one of the major Swedish evening papers.

Calle Ballonka remained a consistent photographer and autograph collector until his death in the year 2000.
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