23 February 2012 | Extracts, Non-fiction

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)

City kids: day-care outing in Töölönlahti park. Photo: Stefan Bremer, 2010

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.

Cathedral quilt: world's largest patchwork quilt on the steps. Stefan Bremer, 2011

Helsinki has been called ‘a pocket-size metropolis’. It is small enough for me to master and just big enough to keep finding new places and new angles for my camera.

City kiss: love at the waterfront. Photo: Stefan Bremer, 2010

To a photographer, the crown of the city is its location.

There is plenty of shoreline and opposite shoreline, there is the horizon and there is the great arching sky.

And there is the sea.

Helsinki is perhaps at its loveliest when I walk to the seashore in the early morning.

Summer party: Flow Festival at Suvilahti. Photo: Stefan Bremer, 2011

It is enough to walk or cycle in the city, stay alert and always carry a camera. Sometimes a friend will call and tell me to pedal to the shore, where a huge cloud is floating over the sea, or to run to a square, where a van is defying the laws of gravity.

Changing skyline: new residential area coming up in Kalasatama. Photo: Stefan Bremer, 2011

This is a description of my Helsinki, not pompous or polished, but mysterious, beautiful, funny and absurd.

Stefan Bremer: Helsinki. Teos, 2012. Translator: Kaisa Sivenius

Cool canines: Sunday stroll on Iso-Roobertinkatu street. Photo: Stefan Bremer, 2011

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