Photo North – Northern Photographic Centre’s latest exhibition Photobook Award 2021 presents five finalists for the eponymous award given by the Finnish Association of Photographic Artists and The Finnish Museum of Photography. In the exhibition the audience can view, browse and read the photobooks, learn how they were made, and study the processes involved.
The winners of the Finnish Photobook Award 2021 are Elina Brotherus with her book Seabound. A Logbook and Sheung Yiu with Ground Truth. The prize is awarded annually to the author of an outstanding photobook and is worth 2000 euros. The other three finalists, awarded 500 euros each, were Laura Horelli withChanges in Direction. A Journal, Marko Hämäläinen with Hiljaisuus liikkuu tuulessa / Silence Moves with the Wind and Niko Luoma with For Each Minute – Sixty-five Seconds. “The 2021 prize was awarded to two artists at very different stages of their careers who also have quite different ways of approaching their artistic work,” says Henna Harri, director of the Finnish Association of Photographic Artists. The winners were selected by photographer and msdm founder paula roush from London. In addition to the photographs, important elements in the selection of the winner included the presentation of the story, the relationship between the text and the photographs, the haptic quality and the visual structure of the books. Roush describes the winning works as follows: “Two books about our relationship to the world – forest and sea – relying on playful, affective and experiential modes of knowing place.” For more information about the winners, please see photobookaward.fi.
Seabound. A Logbook (Kehrer) by Elina Brotherus brings together photographs taken by the artist in Kristiansand, Norway over a period of two years. In addition to the sea and the surrounding landscape, the photographer’s starting points were the local art museum’s historical landscape paintings and a number of concise event scores by conceptual artists. The photographs are complemented by a logbook that maps out everyday moments and provides information on the preparation of the photos. The open-spine book is protected by a box designed specifically for it, creating an impression of a maritime treasure to be handled with silk gloves. In addition to Seabound. A Logbook, the exhibition features a selection of images from the book printed on canvas and wallpaper, logbook entries and Elina Brotherus’ photographic work Seabound Two Nights in a Row (2021).
In her book Changes in Direction – a Journal (Archive Books), Laura Horelli explores the traumatic and complex history of colonialism and international solidarity in East Germany, Finland and Namibia. Her photobook offers numerous African and European perspectives on the contemporary decolonisation debate and, as a report-like artist study, highlights the nature of making art as a process. The research content, the interviews and the discussions contained by the book are enriched by texts by Namibian performance artist Nashilongweshipwe Mushaandja, German curator-theorist Doreen Mende and Finnish writer Olli Löytty. In addition to Changes in Direction – A Journal, the exhibition features Horelli’s billboard posters that bring covers of Namibia Today* journals and other materials together in a collage, materials and a video piece named Interviews (2019) that shed light on the background of the theme. The video piece Newstime (2019), on view in the last gallery space, is a film assembled from archival material and found footage, and discusses cultural differences, being an outsider, the Namibian independence struggle, and Finland’s long-term ties with the southern African country. TV-programs showing everyday life are set against a voice-over by Ellen Ndeshi Namhila, refugee on a scholarchip living in Tampere, reading from her autobiography The Price of Freedom. News clips on the Namibian independence struggle frame the narrative.
Marko Hämäläinen‘s poetic photobook Hiljaisuus liikkuu tuulessa / Silence Moves with the Wind (self-published) describes a traveller’s slow journey in the northern wilderness. Shot over more than a decade in Finnish Lapland, the book shows the beauty of Arctic landscapes where the infinite whiteness of snowfields and the mythical twilight of the polar night create meditative atmospheres. The work also subtly points out the inevitable changes in the winter weather of the northern lands with wet snow and sudden fog increasingly taking the place of freezing sub-zero temperatures. Hämäläinen’s debut work consists of black and white photographs, notes written on the trips and an essay. In addition to the photobook, the exhibition features a collection of his note fragments, a number of framed photographs and video works.
Niko Luoma‘s For Each Minute – Sixty-five Seconds (Hatje Cantz) opens up the artist’s photographic process and looks at classic paintings from a new perspective. Luoma’s Adaptations series presented in the book is based on studies of famous historical artworks through abstract photography. The result is a series of vibrantly rhythmic non-figurative photographs where shapes have been exposed on film in hundreds, sometimes thousands, of double exposures following a precise, premeditated plan. Luoma’s process is slow and meditative and employs coloured plastic films and filters. In addition to the visually refined classic art book, the exhibition features Luoma’s notes, diary entries and process descriptions as well as a photographic work named Self-Titled Adaptation of Fifteen Sunflowers (1889) (2016).
In Ground Truth (The Eriskay Connection), Sheung Yiu explores the tradition of landscape photography from multiple perspectives. Yiu travels through woodlands with forest researchers and, as a photographer, explores the relationship between traditional photography and contemporary visual technologies. The book highlights the problematic nature of seeing in the age of algorithms, asking what we actually see when we are not near the object of seeing. Today, data from satellite photographs is used to assess forest growth, yet interpreting the aerial images depends on field studies done by scientists in the forest – their physical presence, sweat and measuring instruments. The resulting images and data are used to produce mathematical models that eventually help assess the state of the forest. The different elements of the book form a lively and playful whole that leads to many reflections. They also raise questions about the survival of forests and humanity in the midst of the current ecological crisis. In addition to the book, Yiu has brought to the exhibition other materials, archive photos and photographic artworks that shed light on the process of making the book.
Photo North – Northern Photography Centre also arranges a PINO22 photo art book event on Saturday 10 December in the cafeteria of Culture House Valve from noon to 3 pm. The event will feature discussions and book presentations, and books will also be available for purchase. At 1 pm, photographer and publisher Tuukka Kaila will present the finalists of the Photobook of the Year 2021 award and host a discussion on the making of photobooks. The discussion will be held in Finnish.
*Namibia Today was the newspaper of the Namibian liberation movement that was printed in and distributed from East Germany during the period when SWAPO (South West Africa People’s Organization) was at war with South Africa. As the history of Namibia Today remains largely unexplored to this day, Horelli has put together an associative selection of advertising posters for the exhibition. In addition to the Photo North – Northern Photographic Centre gallery, posters can be seen in Ränni-galleria, an exhibition showcase maintained by local culture association and collective Kulttuuribingo and Oulu Museum of Art in the pedestrian tunnel at the Oulu railway station.
Photobook Award 2021
Elina Brotherus, Laura Horelli, Marko Hämäläinen, Niko Luoma, Sheung Yiu
Photo North – Northern Photographic Centre, gallery
(Photos: Minna Kurjenluoma)