Workers, miners, loggers, idealists, communists, utopians: early last century numerous Finns left for North America to find their fortune, settling down in Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ontario. Some 800,000 of their descendants now live around the continent, but the old Finntowns have disappeared, and Finglish is fading away – that amusing language cocktail: äpylipai, apple pie.
The 375th anniversary of the arrival of the first Finnish and Swedish settlers, in Delaware, was celebrated on 11 May. Photographer Vesa Oja has met hundreds of American Finns over eight years; the photos and stories are from his new book, Finglish. Finns in North America
The Työmies Bar is located in the former printing house of the Finnish leftist newspaper, Työmies (‘The workman’). The owners, however, don’t know what this Finnish word means, or how to pronounce it.
The Työmies Society, which published the newspaper of the same name, Työmies, was founded in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1903 as a socialist organ. It moved to Hancock, Michigan the following year. More…
Photographer Mikko Savolainen began taking photos of Finnish Romani life in the 1960s, in the time of transition from nomadism to life in housing estates. New trends in the 1960s and 1970s also brought Romani culture to the fore – singers, musicians, festivals; an act baning racial discrimination had been passed. Savolainen became interested in Gypsy life
The text and the photographs are from Suomen romanit. Romanielämää 1960–1970-luvuilla / The Roma of Finland. Roma life in the 1960s and 1970s (Musta Taide, 2008. English translation: Jüri Kokkonen)
I have visited over a hundred Roma homes. Respect for parents, care of the elderly and hospitality are the first things that come to mind.
I have come across similar consideration for visitors only in cottages in Karelia, where the first question was whether I wanted a cup of coffee or to eat first.
I took my first photographs of Roma people in the Market Square of Hamina as an amateur photographer who only wanted to take good portraits. More…
Jan-Erik Andersson: Elämää lehdellä [Life on a leaf]
Helsinki: Maahenki, 2012. 248 p., ill.
‘I am Leaf House –
root house, sky house.
Enter me, be safe
And wander, dream.
The artist’s I is all our eyes….’
We all live – exceptions are really rare – in cubes. Not in cylinders or spheres, let alone in buildings of organic shapes like flowers or leaves; and houses in the shape of a shoe, for example, belong to the fairy-tale world, or perhaps to surrealism.
Artist Jan-Erik Andersson wanted to build a fairy-tale house in the shape of a leaf, and that is what he did (2005–2009), together with his architect partner Erkki Pitkäranta. Instead of the geometry of modernist architecture, he is inspired by the organic forms of nature.
Andersson’s house project, entitled ‘Life on a leaf’, also became an academic project, resulting in a dissertation at Finnish Academy of Fine Arts and now a book, including a detailed journal of the building process itself. The artist was at first advised, by a professor of architecture, not to proceed with his building project – he wouldn’t ‘like living in the house’, he was told. More…
9 November 2012 | This 'n' that
Birds and bees, frogs, squirrels, water lilies, thistles, ferns, junipers, bears and even gnomes originating in Finnish nature appear, in abundance, in Finnish architecture of the two decades around the turn of the 20th century.
The trend that developed out of the Arts and Crafts Movement in Great Britain and in the United States, known as l’art nouveau in France and Jugendstil in Germany, lived a short but extremely fervent life in Finland, which adopted the term jugend.
In Finland this aesthetic movement is also called national romanticism. In 1899 the pan-Slavic movement arising in Russia took the form of attempts to suppress Finland’s burgeoning national identity in Finland, and in resisting this, artists made extensive use of national romantic material in their work. More…
Photographer Pentti Sammallahti (born 1950) has travelled widely over six decades; his mostly black-and-white photographs portray humans, animals, cities as well as open landscapes, in Nepal, France, Kalmykia, the US, Morocco, Russia – in more than 40 countries. His beautifully executed retrospective work, entitled ‘here far away’, containing more than 250 photographs, is introduced by Finn Thrane
here far away is a retrospective work that comprises nearly fifty years of photographic activity and unfolds in almost as many countries. Despite this, Pentti Sammallahti’s discreet title points to the paradox that the photograph always represents a here-and-now: an encounter in the exhibition or on the page of the book between artist and viewer, which is of course subject to the law of mutability, but constantly reflects the capacity of the two to enter into a dialogue, to extend the picture’s mirror of the past into the viewer’s present and future. More…
The photographer and writer Heikki Willamo lived for a year in the forest – not full-time, but for long periods in all seasons, sleeping in his lean-to. This two-hundred, preserved hectare fragment lies in the midst of felled clearings, farmed forest and habitation in southern Finland.
Many Finns still say that being in a forest is a peaceful and empowering experience; Willamo recorded his thoughts on this as well as his black-and-white photographs in his book, Vuosi metsässä (‘A year in the forest’, Maahenki, 2012. See also extracts from Viimeiset vieraat [‘The last visitors’] here) More…
Photographer Stefan Bremer’s home town, Helsinki, provides endless inspiration, material and atmospheric. For forty years Bremer has been recording views of the maritime city, its changing seasons, its cultural events, its people. These images are from his new book – entitled, simply, Helsinki (Teos, 2012)
When I was a child, Helsinki seemed to me a grey and sad town. Stooping, quiet people walked its broad streets. The colours of the houses had been darkened by coal smoke over the years, and new buildings were coated a depressing grey.
A lot has since changed. Today, Helsinki is younger than it was in my youth. More…
The short winter days of the northerly latitudes are made brighter by snow cover, which almost doubles the amount of available light. Reflection from the snow is an aid for photographers working outdoors in winter conditions. A new book, entitled Linnut lumen valossa (‘Birds in the light of snow’), presents the best shots by four professionals, Arto Juvonen, Tomi Muukkonen, Jari Peltomäki and Markus Varesvuo, who specialise in patiently stalking the feathered survivors in the cold
The photographs and texts are from the book Linnut lumen valossa (‘Birds in the light of snow’, edited by Arno Rautavaara. Design and layout by Jukka Aalto/Armadillo Graphics. Tammi, 2011)
7 October 2011 | This 'n' that
The founder of Hel Looks, which charts clothing styles of Helsinki denizens (which we featured here on the Books from Finland website), has been talking to Finnish television (programme in Finnish) about her website.
Established in 2005, the site – which has an eye for the weird and wonderful rather than the classically stylish – attracts an average of 10,000 visitors a day, two thirds of them from outside Finland.
Fashion editor Liisa Jokinen says she got the idea for the site while on holiday in Sweden. ‘I think a lot of Finns admire the Swedes’ fashion sense and in particular their stylishness. But in fact the range of styles is greater in Helsinki, and Finns have the courage to be different,’ she says.
Recent images from the site bear her comments out, and chart the sheer range of costume that she and the photographer Sampo Karjalainen set out to document. Take the 13-year-old fashionistas Josua and Julius (left), snapped on Bulevardi in central Helsinki on 1 October, for example: ‘We dance hip hop and house. It inspires our style. We try not to dress up like all other boys’; or Noel Coward fan Janne, 51, seen on 3 September: ‘I’m wearing an English tweed suit tailor-made in London. I live in Mexico, where I normally wear a white linen suit.’
Best of all, says Jokinen, is when she comes across someone for a second time without realising that she took their picture a year or so back. The image of Helsinki reflected by Hel Looks is made up of people, not buildings. ‘I believe people and their clothes contribute much more to a city than its buildings do,’ Jokinen says.
The photos on the Hel Looks site, currently numbering some 1,200, offer us visions of how people want to be seen; in this selection, few dress to play a role. People wear what they think is fun or/and stylish, and we, the onlookers, enjoy being the judges of this city catwalk.
15 September 2011 | In the news
The graphic artist Professor Erik Bruun has been awarded the Luonnotar / National Spirit of Nature Award for 2011.
The prize, established by the Puu kulttuurissa / Wood in Culture Association in 2001 and now worth € 12,000, is awarded bi-annually to Finnish professionals of any field of culture whose work has helped to make the public in Finland and abroad more aware of Finnish culture, heritage and environment.
Erik Bruun (born 1926) – who was the Art Editor of Books from Finland from 1976 to 1989 – is perhaps best known to the public for his numerous posters and advertisements, in particular his nature posters for the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation: the Saimaa ringed seal, the bear, eagles, owls, seagulls and other birds.
Bruun’s interest in nature photography, drawing, etching and lithography have long combined in his work for the Finnish wood processing industry as well as in his illustrative work for magazines and books and in designing postage stamps and banknotes.
A book on his life’s work, Sulka ja kynä. Erik Bruunin julisteita ja käyttögrafiikkaa (‘The quill and the pen. Posters and graphics by Erik Bruun’) by Ulla Aartomaa was published in 2007 (and reviewed in Books from Finland 3/2007). Take a look at his work on his home page.
Do we live in the age of autopia, and if we do, what does that mean? On this earth there are now perhaps 800 million cars, all vital to our modern lifestyles. Professor and photographer Merja Salo observes landscapes through her camera with this question in mind
Extracts and photographs from Carscapes. Automaisemia (Edition Patrick Frey & Musta Taide, 2011. Translation: Laura Mänki)
The car may be the vehicle for the everyman, but not every man is a good driver. According to Hungarian- born psychoanalyst Michael Balint, good drivers have the psychological structure of philobats. With their sense of sight, they perceive space well and control it by steering their vehicle skilfully. Ocnophiles, on the other hand, are more at home as passengers. They structure the world through intimacy and touch. When driving, they cling anxiously to the steering wheel and do not perceive the continously changing situations in traffic.
Jean Sibelius kodissaan. Jean Sibelius, i sitt hem. Jean Sibelius at home
Toimittanut [Edited by] Jussi Brofeldt
Helsinki: Teos, 2010. 103 p., ill.
€ 29, hardback
The composer Jean Sibelius (1865–1957) disliked being photographed. This book contains 50 stills selected from the documentary film Jean Sibelius at home, a compilation of cinematographic material in which the composer is seen at home in 1927 and 1945. Some of the shots were originally cut, and have not been previously published. The film was made by the brothers Heikki Aho and Björn Soldan, who were neighbours of Sibelius in their childhood – their father was the author Juhani Aho, a friend of the Sibelius family. Founded in the 1920s, the film company Aho & Soldan was influenced by the experimental spirit of the Bauhaus and became known for its commissioned work aimed at spreading the image of Finland abroad. The Sibelius film offers a rare peek into the composer’s home life at his villa of Ainola. In addition to the photographs, the trilingual book also contains seven articles on Sibelius and the film. Heikki Aho’s daughter, the pioneer photographer Claire Aho relates her own memories of the 1945 filming. Jussi Brofeldt, the book’s editor, is her son.
Translated by David McDuff
Documentary film-making and photography arrived in Finland in the 1920s with pioneers like Heikki Aho and Björn Soldan, who founded a film company in 1925 in Helsinki. They also took thousands of photographs of their city; in a selection taken in the turbulent 1930s, people go on about their lives, rain or shine
Photographs from Aho & Soldan: Kaupunkilaiselämää – Stadsliv – City life. Näkymiä 1930-luvun Helsinkiin (‘Views of Helsinki of the 1930s’, WSOY, 2011)
Photos: Aho & Soldan@Jussi Brofeldt. Texts, by Jörn Donner and Ilkka Kippola, are published in Finnish, Swedish and English.
The exhibition ‘City life‘ is open at Virka Gallery of the Helsinki City Hall from 1 June to 4 September.
Aho and Soldan were half-brothers, Heikki the eldest son of the writer Juhani Aho (1861–1921; an extract from one of his novels is available here) and the artist Venny Soldan-Brofeldt. (Juhani Aho changed his original Swedish surname, Brofeldt, to Aho in 1907), Björn Soldan was Aho’s son from an extramarital relationship. More…
Aamu Nyström: I.K. Inha – Valokuvaaja, kirjailija, kulttuurin löytöretkeilijä [I.K. Inha – Photographer, writer, cultural explorer]
I.K. Inha – Valokuvaaja, kirjailija, kulttuurin löytöretkeilijä
[I.K. Inha – Photographer, writer, cultural explorer]
Jyväskylä: Minerva, 2011. 271 p., ill.
€ 31, hardback
I.K. Inha (1865–1930) was a photographer, a writer, a translator and a journalist. He is known particularly for his photographic journeys in Finland and Russian Karelia. Both the texts and the photographs in Inha’s landscape and nature works are of a high aesthetic standard. This book focuses on Inha’s lesser-known works and the various phases of his life. Inha’s travel diary documents the cycle journey he made as a student in 1886 to Germany and Switzerland. In 1897 Inha was appointed Finland’s first-ever foreign correspondent; from Athens he reported on events such as the Greco-Turkish War. In 1899 and 1901 Inha was posted to England, where he observed Queen Victoria’s funeral and the coronation of King Edward VII. Aamu Nyström, the niece of Inha’s brother, has had access to letters, photographs and written and oral recollections of family members.
Translated by Ruth Urbom