The exhibition OUR NATURES – Interpretations of National Romanticism by the Finnish Museum of Photography’s young adults’ group Photofuss draws reflection on “Finnishness” today. The word nature in the title refers to human nature and natural environments—this duality is studied both together and independently in the exhibition. The works criticise and praise myths, question and reproduce beliefs, and create utopias by looking at things as a whole, with the love they deserve.
The exhibition is a multidimensional ensemble of forests, meadows, beaches, as well as seasons, bursts of creativity, a sense of familiarity, experiences, work, and stories. The group chose the topic of National Romanticism due to their shared interest in “Finnishness” and its manifestations. As our realities have recently shrunk to the size of our homeland, we have been forced to look at ourselves as a people and redefine some of our concepts and views. Who is the Aino or Tapio of our time, and in what kind of a world do they live in?
From the members of the Photofuss group the exhibition OUR NATURES – Interpretations of National Romanticism includes works by Lotta Böhm, Rami Farooq, Emilia Kärkäs, Milja Laakso, Ida Maijala, Teemu Nurmivuori, Sanna Nykänen, Lyy Raitala, Selma af Schultén, Tiia Schwartz, Elle Sumelius, Gülen Topaloglou, Matias Uusinoka, and Sofia Vuorenmaa. The group’s coordinator Kataja Ekholm and members Tuukka Jaromaa and Ansa Matikainen have also contributed to organising the exhibition. (See below for participants’ presentations.)
Photofuss is a group of young adults steered by the Finnish Museum of Photography that offers the opportunity to experience photographic culture and make art through collective work. The group’s activities are based on experimentation and investigation and are guided by ideas and interests emerging from its members. Additionally, Photofuss plans and produces its own exhibitions. The group is formed for one year’s time, and there is an open call for new members each autumn.
The exhibition has been realised in collaboration with Cultural Factory Korjaamo, the Finnish Museum of Photography, and Photographic Gallery Hippolyte. The Photofuss group members created all of the images and text.
image: Lyy Raitala, Velloa, 2020
OUR NATURES – Interpretations of National Romanticism
24 June – 18 July 2021
Töölönkatu 51b, 00250 Helsinki
Hippolyte Korjaamo is open according to Cultural Factory Korjaamo’s opening times:
Tue-Thu 11:00-21:00, Fri 11:00-21:30, Sat 14:00-21:30 (Sun & Mon closed)
Lotta Böhm (b. 1997) is a Helsinki-based photographer inspired by nature, plainness, clear lines and silhouettes. Böhm dreams of her own picture book and creating work that evoke emotions. She photographs both by herself and together with a colleague as duo.
In her series, form, Böhm examines National Romanticism. In it, the subject resonates as the relationship between nature and humans. Have we forgotten that we are a part of nature? In Böhm’s works, figurations are created by the bare human body, in its most natural state—in the embrace of water.
Rami Farooq (b. 1995) has studied aesthetics and yoga, which has made him understand the relationship between subject and object. With his pictures, Farooq wants to bring out everyday beauty and the sanctity of nature—its wonder.
In his series of works, Farooq wants to express his feelings of not belonging and belonging simultaneously. He wants to examine what “his” Finland looks like, and how it feels and how does it measure in relation to his past.
Farooq has been inspired by his yoga practice, family, and friends who have moved to Finland from abroad. The experience of not belonging, a trauma stored deep in the body, is slowly healing through yoga practice. Even if you don’t feel like you belong in a particular nation or culture, you can find other deep connections. One can build an identity from parts that belong in no specific time or place.
Emilia Kärkäs (b. 1995) is a Helsinki-based photographer who experiences photography as creating concepts akin to drawing and painting—often finding her inspiration from the latter. In her work, she wants to explore the ills of the modern world and humanity amid digitalisation but also wishes to create stories of utopia.
In her work, My Aino, Our Aino, Kärkäs reflects on the female image in nationalistic art and asks the question, who is Aino? Is she the narrative of the Finnish female image? What could that look like? How can it be dismantled? What makes Aino Aino? The work is inspired by Finnish historical painting, Akseli Gallen-Kallela’s works, the images of women in them and reflections on women as subjects in nationalistic art.
Milja Laakso (b. 1995) works as a photographer in Helsinki. She also learns from other professionals in the field by working as an assistant to various photographers. Over the past year, Laakso has found her foothold in photography even more confidently. Her style and focus has changed so that she has found herself mainly photographing people. Her dreams of working in art and fashion have strengthened, although Laakso reflects on the boundaries and differences between art and commercial imagery.
Laakso’s series, A Nap, is a light look at a constructed moment. It is a moment to which her mind would like to return when dreaming of a warm summer in Finland. The purpose of the images is to create a fictional mental landscape and add a layer of cotton candy around reality. The constructed images are utopian pieces of “Finnishness”. Instead of a severe political stance, Laakso’s series represents a respite, not wanting to go any deeper. The pictures were co-created with second-year acting students at the Theater Academy as well as Laakso’s close friends—stylists Lotta Luostarinen and Juuli Ruokolainen.
Ida Maijala (b. 2001) is a Helsinki-based dreamer, writer, and photographer. Maijala has been photographing since she was little, and a couple of years ago, she finally got an SLR camera, which nowadays travels everywhere with her. Ida is methodical, but her photographic practice relishes in the unexpected and the spontaneous.
Maijala’s diptych, echoes, deals with loneliness and humans’ relationship to nature. A relationship that goes so deep that only in nature can you be your true self. In the works, however, the base theme is loneliness, which Maijala finds very Finnish. Self-sufficiency is placed on a high pedestal where the boundary between independence and loneliness begins to blur. The works are self-portraits, as Maijala gives her face to the slightly difficult subject.
Teemu Nurmivuori (b. 1993) is a Tampere-based photographer for whom photography is a way to study the environment, both at home and out in the world. Finding rhythms, repetition, and symmetry is Nurmivuori’s way of looking at and building images. Nurmivuori often photographs the effects of the human hand, as well as its interaction with the environment.
In My Place?, Nurmivuori wanted to challenge himself by photographing in an unfamiliar environment, away from the familiar, built world. The work examines Finnish design. The theme of National Romanticism represents for Nurmivuori above all pride in the achievements of one’s people and embracing its culture, but also navigating its stubborn assumptions. Nurmivuori wanted to include a well-known Finnish design object, the Domus chair designed by Ilmari Tapiovaara, in his work. Although the chair’s materials originated in nature, the edge of a field is an unusual place for it to reside.
Sanna Nykänen (b. 1999) studies Visual Communication Design at Aalto University. She is especially fascinated by the combination of different media, but also the meeting of old and new. Photography has always been present in Nykänen’s work, although it does not always appear in its most traditional forms. In the future, she hopes to make publications, video art, and installations.
The collage-like works in the series, (perhaps) later this summer, show a dialogue between themes of human and nature, current and past. Forming a narrative whole, the works include Nykänen’s own photographs combined with archival material and plants.
Lyy Raitala (b. 1999) is a first-year student of photography at the Royal Academy of Arts in the Hague. Raitala is interested in mixing reality and fiction in absurd and playful way. In her work, she combines detached elements, creating new connotations. Raitala is interested in people, various natural surfaces and materials, details, and situations she observes around her.
The series, fishing stories, displays for the viewer a mythical female figure—its beauty, strangeness, and strength. The fantastical female character does not exaggerate but stays in place for a time—finding a momentary balance in the abundance of the world. The works stem from women’s traditions and magical powers, which have historically been ignored due to various taboos attached to the female body.
Selma af Schultén (b. 2001) is a photography enthusiast from Helsinki, who started, as if by accident, through her interest in visual art from a young age. In addition to photographing, af Schultén is also a full-time journalism student. People and nature often appear in her images in one form or another. Af Schultén enjoys spontaneous photography and rarely plans her shooting sessions.
In the series, Departure to the Air Force, af Schultén deals with family relationships and lineages, loss and love. She reflects on generational differences and differences between her urban identity and those of her relatives. In the period of National Romanticism, af Schultén is interested in tradition, religion, and the meaning of work and art. The theme of the series is personal but documentarian in its style.
Tiia Schwartz (b. 1994) is a musician studying music education. As a photographer, Schwartz looks for colours and rhythms around her. She is inspired by reading, writing, other people and their passions, conversations among friends, and the phenomena of music. Schwartz records nature close to her, which includes friends, plants, birds, and insects. She started photographing to capture significant moments and is still learning how images become art.
The series of pictures, I am ready to be, explores the impact of urban nature. The images were created by walking together on the outskirts of cities, searching for the colours of the seasons. They breathe, stop, and respect the environment, seeking the utopia of the unconquerable. Being ready to be. Maybe the people in the pictures have decided to do so when they close their eyes.
Elle Sumelius (b. 1998) is a film student from Helsinki. Various natural phenomena often appear from afar in her works, or conversely up close, in the abstract. Photography as a tool gives her the freedom to explore the environment embraced by her interpretations. If Sumelius had to choose one wonder to record for the rest of her life, it would be trees with their various species.
Sumelius describes her series as follows: “The Neon Greens began with an eighth-grade biology homework I came across: ‘Plantae Fennicae’. The perfectly laid out dried flowers, between the books, lay serenely on archival paper—more fragile than when alive. I liked how the plant appears on a single piece of paper, just like the first buds of spring in the still dozing environment. I set out to greet these individuals and their glowing nature, bewildered by their vitality”.
Gülen Rita Topaloglu (b. 1994) is a visual storyteller and eternal observer living in Helsinki. She often daydreams and writes her reflections into short stories. Topaloglu started photographing at Vantaa Art School’s film, photography, and darkroom workshops, which gave Topaloglu an eternal attraction to photography. What makes the photograph interesting to her is its ambiguity. Outside of this exhibition, Topaloglu works on her photography projects and longs for the Aegean Sea.
Symbolism and humans’ relationship to the past are at the heart of Topaloglu’s photographic works. Her images question the thought patterns of National Romanticism—where nature, patriotism, and religion are often central themes.
Matias Uusinoka (b.1996) is a paranoid dilettante estranged from his own reality, a real living Gallinago! He doesn’t have a developmental story to offer nor an ending, which will hopefully turn out to be conveniently conventional. His personality resembles a typical crablike cancer. In his wildest dreams, Matias longs for a fishing permit gained back from Metsähallitus and a permanent post as a local stage artist at Nuijantalo, Pälkäne. Once he owned a car.
Uusinoka describes his series of works called ’Opus’ as follows: ‘With the outlines of the general mind sketching an estrangement fleeing from reality, enables the pleasantness of thought experiments a dimensionless reminder of roundness of its obligations of moral realism. While the natural desires take the role of a guide, may the king of the jungle forget his deceased wife when confusing his idea of heaven with the independent sensuous actuality. It is therefore relevant to raise the question of the uncertain nature of the experience-based fields under a mutual understanding: to understand the experience or to experience the understanding? With the physical nature of the event chains bending under the laws of imagination, can one only self-consciously apologise the fragility of the human nature as if taping word formations together. The essence of the intersubject abolishes the obligation of otherness, and in flows the modern experience. Blankets twist and sway when being sorted, nettle potion heals the rash, your bones shall shake till tomorrow comes. By the side of eternal delusion, it is essential to remember occasionally to smile: the pool-raised dolphins emerging in your dreams will rampage for a cleaner Baltic. They are homesick and thus amplify the mutual experience of the people.
I, myself, prefer lies, romance and horses.’
Sofia Vuorenmaa (b. 2001) is interested in visual arts, literature, and their intermediate forms. In her art, Vuorenmaa studies movement, thought processes, and various natural phenomena, primarily through drawing and printmaking. She photographs rarely but thoughtfully—liking, above all, the images where the film is damaged, the landscape shaken, and the idea cut off somewhere on the plane of fragile thought.
The diptych, The Language of My Thoughts, deals with silence and its beauty. Silence is a place of emptiness and consideration—a space for everything made possible via inexistence. Black and white as colours represent a similar ambivalence. One can share the experience of being together and separately simultaneously in the sometimes awkward silence between people. You can listen, wait, and show respect—think here and then elsewhere.