The exhibition 883 Pages – Finnish Photobook Award 2019 parades the five finalists for the prize, awarded in early May, and presents their photographic books. The books are on view as independent works of art, but can also be handled and leafed through. In addition to the books, the finalists have displayed photographic works related and featured in the publications.
Fine art photographic volumes have long been a phenomenon in the Finnish and international field of photography, and each new generation of artists continue to test the boundaries of bookmaking as a concept and work of art. As a publication, the life cycle of the works are longer, and the format activates the images and narration in a different way than an exhibition. As art critic Helen Korpak stated in the Hufvudstadsbladet on May 4, 2020:
“A good fine art photographic book consists of so much more than just printed photos. Things that don’t always come to mind—like printing quality, paper, book size, thickness, font, and rhythm—matter. . . . As a result, it is this object, rather than just the images, that tell the artist’s story. The book itself becomes a work of art that can be perceived not only by reason but also by emotion.” (transl. Hippolyte)
The finalists of the Finnish Photobook Award 2019 on display are Natalia Kopkina (Mame), Kati Leinonen (Äimärautio), Anni Leppälä (hyle | curtain | backdrop), Marco Melander and Saara Salmi (Atelieri O. Haapala ja sen ihmeellinen maailma – The Fantastic World of Atelieri O. Haapala), and Johannes Romppanen (Lilja). In the exhibition, the viewer encounters notions of the “quintessential” Russian landscape and cultural ethos, equestrian sports, memories both colourful and yearning, fantasy worlds built upon reenactment and fetishisation, and the challenging but rewarding everyday life of a family with children.
Photographic artist Ulla Jokisalo awarded Johannes Romppanen’s work, Lilja, the top prize. Jokisalo justified her choice as follows:
“Johannes Romppanen’s Lilja is a multi-layered and carefully thought-out work. The deepest impact and effectiveness of a fine art photographic book lies in its unique personality and the human warmth of the photos. Lilja is Romppanen’s documentation of his family from 2013-2018 and follows the aftermath of his child’s diagnosis of cerebral palsy. As a photographic narration, Lilja is distinct, especially as a description of the relationship between Romppanen himself and his daughter, and as a portrayal of their common point of view.” (transl. Hippolyte)
Jokisalo also paid particular attention to the book itself as an art object:
“While the photo paper in the book is very thin and porous, the printing quality on each photo is amazingly high in terms of both detail and colour reproduction. An interesting detail in the book is to leave the printed page edges rough, in which case the viewer must prudently open each page of the book to see the images. The book also includes a sensual case with a die-cut title and graceful images and colour scheme throughout. In the end, around the book and its case, there is a charming hand-folded wrapping paper printed on both sides with photos.” (transl. Hippolyte)
The aim of the Finnish Photobook Award, co-organised by the Association of Photographic Artists and the Finnish Museum of Photography, is to encourage authors of high-quality fine art photographic books, as well as to arouse public interest in the format. The award highlights the book as one form of fine art photography, and aims to invite the public to become familiar with these opuscules as independent works of art. www.photobookaward.fi
Finnish Photobook Award 2019 finalists
Natalia Kopkina’s hand-bound book, Mame [For Mother] (2018) is a poetic expedition into the photographer’s Russian childhood and imagery of “Russianness.” The book includes photographs from Kopkina’s series Motherland (2015) as well as poems by amateur poet Boris Fileikin from the 1940s through the 1980s. Fileikin and Kopkina’s grandfather knew each other from a Siberian prison camp. Some of the book’s images were brought to the gallery as black and white gelatin silver prints. www.nataliakopkina.com
In her work Äimärautio (2018), Kati Leinonen delves into a community united by a passion and total commitment to horses—for whom horses are a way of life. Äimärautio is an equestrian centre located in Oulu. From 2015-2017, Leinonen captured the environment that she experienced as a riding school student. The book features intense portraits, a milieu of images, and details of a modern equine world. The pictures on view in the gallery reflect the many aspects of equestrian enthusiasts and avocation. www.katileinonen.com
Anni Leppälä’s photobook hyle | curtain | backdrop (2019) concinnate the artist’s photos from 2002-2019. In her work, Leppälä examines time, memories, loss, and the world of early-teenage girlhood. The narratives in the book are not linear, but move in different directions and dimensions: the images overlap, cover, and intersect each other. Leppälä’s previous works take on new interpretations within the book, and the volume expands on the gallery walls as a colourful and delicate body of imagery. www.annileppala.com
The neo-Victorian photo studio, Atelieri O. Haapala, formed by photographers Marco Melander and Saara Salmi, operated from 2008-2016—filming fantasy-filled portraits in studios, parties, and countercultural events. The book Atelieri O. Haapala ja sen ihmeellinen maailma – The Fantastic World of Atelieri O. Haapala (2018) brings together the most important and playful images of the studio into a diverse body of work to document Atelier’s history. To the gallery, Melander and Salmi have brought staged interior photographs and portraits. www.ohaapala.com
Johannes Romppanen’s fine art photographic book Lilja (2019) tells the story of the photographer’s third child who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. In his work, Romppanen personally reveals the ordinary occurrences within a family with children, where hospital visits are frequent in daily life. The book, hand-bound, handcrafted, and wrapped in gift paper, invites the reader to open the package and to get to know Lilja’s life page by page. Additionally, the gallery presents images that were omitted from the book. www.liljabook.com
The exhibition has been curated and produced by the staff of Photographic Gallery Hippolyte together with the artists. Thank you Finnish Museum of Photography and Kuvasto.
883 Pages – Finnish Photobook Award 2019
Natalia Kopkina, Kati Leinonen, Anni Leppälä, Marco Melander & Saara Salmi, Johannes Romppanen
Photographic Gallery Hippolyte
Open: Tue-Fri 12-17 (Sat-Sun closed in July)
image: Daniel Niittymäki / Suomen valokuvataiteen museo, 2020