At a time when most Finns are apprehensive about the future of their own country, a photo exhibition has quietly made its way to the public, which presents a crystal clear account of Finland’s past. Helsinki’s Academic Bookstore has officially opened SIBELIUS & KUVIA SUOMESTA (Sibelius & Images of Finland), an exhibition which consumes the entire third floor of the bookstore and highlights the careers of Heikki Aho, Björn Soldan, and Claire Aho. While the space is causal, the images are beautiful and the circular installation somehow seems fitting, making the exhibition more approachable. The photos effectively defined the modern image of this country. The smart, confident, well designed Nordic man or woman, the rest of the world knows as a Finnish, is something that has been decades in the making. SIBELIUS & KUVIA SUOMESTA gives us another look at the past and how this perception came to be.
[alert type=white ]Looking back in time can be misleading, in the way that nostalgia can paralyze present-day problem solving.[/alert]
The space includes six separate exhibitions and approximately half a century’s work from the conception of Aho & Soldan’s documentary filmmaking company, to the two most active decades of Claire Aho’s career. Looking back in time can be misleading, in the way that nostalgia can paralyze present-day problem solving. It can also, however, offer a refreshing sip of simplicity, helping us recalibrate our own ideas about progress and accomplishment. SIBELIUS & KUVIA SUOMESTA does just that, through the story of Helsinki’s growth from the 1920’s forward.
For Aho & Soldan, the timing couldn’t have been better. Finland declared it’s independence in 1917. Roughly seven years later Aho & Soldan founded the company that would go on to make some of the country’s most highly regarded documentary filmmaking to present date. Aho & Soldan’s work aligned with a population that was eager to define and enjoy their new identity. The work was honest, well crafted, and stocked with imagery which was full of promise and development. The prolific duo produced numerous photo books along with over 400 documentary films. Their careers were nothing short of legendary.
Claire Aho describing her and her father’s work: “It seemed important to immortalize people, street life, traffic and a lot else on the streets of Helsinki. There were many beautiful things to see – especially if you knew how to look. On the streets the spirit of the era was vivd, and my father Heikki and I immortalized it.”
For Aho, the show is an overview of her “greatest hits,” highlighting some of her largest contributions and experiments in color photography. Claire got her start in her father’s company when the opportunity to film the 52′ Summer Olympics presented itself. She had simultaneously established her own studio practice which was pulling her work and ideas in a direction that Finland had not seen before. She quickly established a reputation as Finland’s premier color photographer for her witty use of space, form, and color. Commercial work, poured into the studio, but it was Aho’s instinctive solutions for combining product placement with her preferred design elements that made her who she is today.
In some ways it seems absurd to believe that time and technology keep us moving forward. Progress, is now more abstract than ever as we try to balance the needs of our people and our planet. Our connections to one another have been diluted with information, misinformation, and analysis. SIBELIUS & KUVIA SUOMESTA offers a chance to pause and revisit a time and place where life was simple, and simplicity was beautiful.
SIBELIUS & KUVIA SUOMESTA is free and open to the public. The photos can be found in the 3rd floor of the Academic Bookstore, Pohjoisesplanadi 1/Keskuskatu 1, Helsinki.