What are the exhibition’s main themes, questions and reflections deliberations?
Recalling the Distance is an exhibition that examines the relationship between the viewer and the landscape: viewer’s gaze and landscape’s otherness, and ultimately considers themes of longing, time, and memory. Longing for places far away often means longing for someplace to experience otherness in a landscape associated with a foreign culture. My works reflect my subjective and personal perception of being elsewhere. At the same time, I raise questions about the European position in looking at the world. The landscape of my pictures comes from my memories—a piece of reality, of course, but mostly fantasy, my interpretation. Some of the photographs I took in Tibet also appear in my short film Jyrkänne (The Cliff, 2020), which is the artistic part of my soon-to-be-completed dissertation for the Department of Film, Television and Scenography at Aalto University.
When photographing landscape, I am fascinated by its eternity. Through the scenery, I get a glimpse into the world before me, and the world after me. Landscapes that I like are often timeless in nature, or difficult to place into any particular moment or period of time. They make my own mortality easier to tolerate, and my own vanishingly small moment on earth glimpses the eternal.
What is the exhibition like? Where are the photographs taken?
Recalling the Distance exhibition features works from the last 20 years. The common denominator of the work pieces is landscape, one of my favourite pictorial subjects. Many of the images are from Southeast Asia, Nepal and China, but there are also photographs taken in Finland, for example, in Turku archipelago, where I have photographed on regular basis since 1999. The exhibition is divided thematically into spaces: one wall examines mountains and the other water—these are the two parts of the landscape that affect me the most. Birds can be found on the third wall—they act as intermediaries between these landscape elements.
The foyer wall is dedicated entirely to the Tibetan landscape, which has a deep personal significance for me. Since adolescence, I have been interested in Tibetan cultures, and traveling there has been a long-standing dream of mine. Despite China’s strict control, the trip finally took place three years ago. In Tibet, self-guided tourism is not possible, and an official travel agency is always needed. However, with the help of a Tibetan -owned office and our Tibetan guide, I got an honest idea of both the political situation in the country and the daily lives of Tibetans.
The works in the exhibition are taken on black and white film with Rolleiflex, Pentax 6×7 and Leica M3 cameras. The exhibition features ca. 60 handprinted gelatin silver prints. The images’ fine printing technique is based on numerous prints made in the darkroom, and their additional exposures and shadings, toning, and chemical brightening made with a brush. It takes hours, sometimes even days, to process a single print in the darkroom to get the shades I want. Darkroom printing is a passion for me. For example, printing the image Hevonen ja vuori (Horse and Mountain, 2016) was technically challenging but artistically rewarding. The photo was taken near the Nyenchen Tanglha Mountains.
Who are you as an artist? Tell briefly about your artistic practice and your relationship to photography.
I started my career as a photographic artist in 1999 when I held my first small exhibition in Helsinki, Finland. I was especially interested in gelatin silver printing, which I started practicing under the direction of photographer Pentti Sammallahti. In 2008, I graduated as Master of Arts from the University of Art and Design Helsinki (cur. Aalto University) and later begun postgraduate studies at the Department of Film, Television and Scenography. Today, I study the same themes through photography, moving image, and sometimes painting. Still, darkroom printing has remained my favourite of the techniques. Initially, I was fascinated by other cultures that were far as possible from Finland. At the time, there as little talk for climate change, and since then I have had to review my way of photographing, as well as when and how to justify travelling somewhere by airplanes at all. In addition to Europe, over the last 10 years I have photographed for longer periods especially in Asia: India, Nepal, Myanmar (Burma), Cambodia, and most recently Northwest China and Tibet. Buddhism has been an important tradition for me in the formation of my own worldview.
Katri Lassila is finalising her dissertation Pysähtynyt näkymä – Maiseman kuva elokuvan ja valokuvan välillä (engl. Still View—The image of landscape between film and photography) for the Department of Film, Television and Scenography at Aalto University. It examines the image of the landscape as the middle ground between film and photography—a stagnant landscape that carries meanings past the film’s actual narrative. In her dissertation, Lassila also considers her way of photographing in relation to exotism, colonialism, and the European gaze. During her travels, Lassila has from time to time written and photographed newspaper articles related to social issues. Aesthetics have a strong influence in Lassila’s photography—sublime landscape and especially its processing into a print in the darkroom evokes childlike joy in Lassila. In 2016, Lassila founded the Finnish Darkroom Association with five other photographic artists. The association aims to develop, teach and preserve darkroom arts for future generations. In 2021, together with the Finnish Museum of Photography, the association is organising an analogue photography festival in Helsinki. www.katrilassila.com
Recalling the Distance
Korjaamo Culture Factory
Töölönkatu 51 a-b, 00250 Helsinki
Open during Korjaamo’s opening hours: Tue-Sun 15-20
image: Katri Lassila, Vuori, གཉན་ཆེན་ཐང་ལྷ (Nyenchen Tanglha Range), Tiibet, 2016