Joakim Eskildsen, Jouko Lehtola, Ari Saarto and Pekka Turunen
Four Finnish photographers formed the heart of the exhibition ‘Finlandia’. Eskildsen, Lehtola, Saarto and Turunen are exponents of the ‘Helsinki School’, a term that refers both to the art academy in Helsinki and to the successful group of photographers who have graduated from there over the past decade. The photographers from the Helsinki School produce very diverse work, from a wide range of artistic positions, but the one thing which connects them is the characteristic Finnish context of their subjects.
The raw work of Jouko Lehtola (b. Helsinki, 1963) shows how Finnish youth attack life in a society that is wrestling with the transition from traditional agriculture and forestry to post-industrial high technology. Lehtola is emphatically not in search of beautiful pictures, but turns his camera on faces battered in brawls, covered in acne, or behind thick glasses. The drinking, brawling and fucking young people are recorded in their own environment: the urban youth in bars and discos, the country kids often outdoors, in Finnish nature.
Ari Saarto (b. Kotka, 1961) focuses on the edges of society. In Tokyo and Helsinki he photographed the shacks the homeless built for themselves, which are sometimes to be found in the midst of the city – under a bridge, or in the brush in a park. The photographs show only the shacks, in a neutral, documentary manner, so that the emphasis lies on their architectural qualities and the traces left by the absent residents.
The Scandinavian landscape is central to the series of photographs by Joakim Eskildsen (b. Copenhagen, 1975). For Eskildsen the beauty of a landscape does not lie in its infinity or unspoilt character, as nature photographers with a romantic bent like to show in their northern landscapes. His quest is for the repetition of forms and sculptural structures in the void of these landscapes.
Pekka Turunen (b. 1958) exhibits a series of portraits of residents of rural Finland. Turunen recorded farmers, farm workers, hunters and fishermen in their everyday setting: proud people, with a traditional existence which is to a great extent shaped by the whims of nature.