Contemporary Finnish Photography

October 4 – November 30, 2014
Opening hours: Tuesday–Sunday 11am–6pm,
Wednesday 11am–8pm, Monday closed
Admission fees

Nelli Palomäki, At Twenty-six #3

Photo: Nelli Palomäki, At Twenty-six #3, 2008, © Nelli Palomäki / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014

Santeri Tuori, Karlotta

Photo: Santeri Tuori, Karlotta, 2003,
Video Still_09, © Santeri Tuori / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014

Iiu Susiraja, Luuta/Besen

Photo: Iiu Susiraja, Luuta/Broom, 2010,
from the series “Hyvä käytös”/“Good Behavior”, 2008–2010, © Iiu Susiraja

Harri Pälviranta, In a park, 22.35

Photo: Harri Pälviranta, In a park, 22.35, from the series “Battered”, 2006–2007,
© Harri Pälviranta

Portraiture is the most treasured form of photography. It deals with capturing the existence of identity. At first glance the portrait in our passport is the visual communicator that establishes our acceptance to enter into a foreign environment. In our family albums it gives evidence of our celebrations, achievements and flaunts genetic heritage. Social media codes the portrait to a thumbnail that carries an evolving narrative of what we want the world to know about us.

As part of the Finnish Guest of Honour programme Frankfurt Book Fair 2014 the exhibition “Potretti” introduces seven contemporary photographic artists from Finland, who investigate subjects via the genre of portraiture. Through diverse media of photographs, film, video, collage each artist has a unique method of working and an exceptional subject to visualize. The portraits and self-portraits of Elina Brotherus, Ulla Jokisalo, Harri Pälviranta, Nelli Palomäki, Raakel Kuukka, Iiu Susiraja and Santeri Tuori are the key symbol used to reveal their stories and surpassing documentary presentation. Through observation of the world around them they create intimate staged settings of pleasure, self-reflection or irony. Themes of childhood, youth, the body, motherhood, family, aging and violence and photography itself are leitmotifs, which accompany this exhibition.

In the 1980s and 1990s the environmental portrait played an exceptional role in contemporary Finnish photography. The self taught Eskö Mannikkö’s colour portraits of Finnish men who live alone were received with great curiosity, not alone for their self-irony at venues such as art space Portikus in Frankfurt am Main in 1996. After discovering 19th century portraits of the Sámi people, indigenous Laplanders, in a Paris Archive in the artist Jorma Puranen re-staged these images in their original-landscapes in his series “Imaginary Homecoming”. Around this time also Elina Brotherus’ colour photographs became internationally recognized for her portrayal of figures often the artist herself in landscapes or interiors, in a singular image narrative. Her references to art history, literature or music embellish loss, love and the absence of love. Through photographic and teaching visits to Finland for the last 30 years, the American Finnish photo-artist Arno Rafael Minkkinen has also influenced the genre of experimental self-portraiture. In the 1980s artist Jan Kaila began a long term story of the life of the naturalist and theatrical hermit Elis Sinistö bridging documentary and later performance, influencing the next generation of image-makers.

“Potretti” includes works from the following Finnish talents: Elina Brotherus (b. 1972 Helsinki, Finland) works in photography and film. Her early work dealt with subjective experiences; the presence and absence of love. Since the late 1990s she has concentrated on the relationship between the human figure and landscapes and on the gaze of an artist on his/her model. “Annonciation” retraces Elina Brotherus’ work back to photographs stemming from her own personal experience and her willingness to stage a subject still taboo: infertility. During unsuccessful attempts at getting pregnant, while she was staying in New York, Elina Brotherus completed the film “Wrong Face” on 16mm. Unlike her photographs which state the grim reality of the impossibility of having a child in the form of a diary, the film reveals another face; a resolutely free and creative woman practising her art. These latest works exemplify Elina Brotherus’ wish to continue questioning the issue of the self and the intimate. Ulla Jokisalo (b. 1955 Kannus, Finland) creates unique mixed media works made with illustration, photographs, objects, thread, pins and ribbon. She uses references to literature, historical photographs, fairy tales, the theme of the looking glass, nature and mythologies to create narratives of beauty and evil, pain and desires. The introspective alter ego often appears as an innocent child set within life’s stage, critically or dream-filled confronting the circumstance. The themes of Raakel Kuukka (b. 1955 Anjala, Finland) include traces of auto-biographical narratives, be it as an on-going diary of self-portraits or various studies of family members or family heritage. She combines poignancy and irony in much her work, be it photographs or video. As a teacher she influenced many students through her environmental self-portraits. Nelli Palomäki (b. 1981 Forssa, Finland) creates black and white portraits that reveal the fragility of the moment shared with her subject. She focuses on children and youth, and the subjects of growth, memory and our problematic way of seeing ourselves. One of her crucial themes is our own mortality. Harri Pälviranta (b. 1971 Tampere, Finland) is a photographic artist and a researcher. Theoretically much of Pälviranta’s work can be categorized as documentary. However his documentary style relates to concepts such as constructed verisimilitude and dramatized, narrated realities. His latest bodies of work are concerned with how violence affects society and how it is represented in the media. Iiu Susiraja (b. 1975 in Turku, Finland) uses photography and video and also does installations. Her unique self-portraiture revolves around dramatic domestic interludes involving femininity, the body, traditions, social stereotypes and love. She was included in the international group exhibition, “Alice in Wonderland”, which was seen in Finland and Spain and marked a crucial step in her career. Santeri Tuori (b. 1970 in Espoo, Finland) works with photography and video often combining the two mediums in one presentation. His work consistently deals with concepts of time and change. In the slow movements of images, the viewer is invited to question how one is seeing and what one is seeing. Minute changes propel emotions of anticipation, joy and melancholy.

The accompanying publication “POTRETTI. Photographs and Literature from Finnish Artists and Writers”, edited by Frank Bollinger and Celina Lunsford, includes works of the exhibited artists and writings by Elias Lönnrot, Asko Sahlberg, Tove Jansson, Iiu Susiraja, Riikka Ala-Harja, Aki Salmela, Veikko Huovinen und Edith Södergran. It is available during the exhibition for 19 EUR.

“Potretti“, curated by Celina Lunsford, artistic director of Fotografie Forum Frankfurt, is a cooperation with FILI – Finnish Literature Exchange, Frame Visual Art Finland and the Fotografie Forum Frankfurt. The exhibition is part of the artistic and cultural programme FINNLAND.COOL. Frankfurt Bookfair. Guest of Honour 2014.

Special Events

Saturday, October 11, 2014, 6pm
Lecture “The Artist and her Model”
Elina Brotherus, Photographer, Finland/France

Saturday/Sunday, October 11/12, 2014, 10am to 6pm
Workshop Portrait Photography “The Artist and her Model”
Elina Brotherus, Photographer, Finland/France

Wednesday, October 22, 2014, 7pm
Lecture “Collecting and Exhibiting at the Finnish Museum
of Photography in Helsinki”

Elina Heikka, Director, Finnish Museum of Photography, Helsinki

Supported by