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Backlight Photo Festival celebrates its 30th anniversary and Finland’s 100 years of independence by organizing an exhibition tour of seven Finnish photographic artists in Europe. The tour Independence Through the Lenses is realized together with the Backlight Photo Festival and its international partners in Hungary, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Slovakia, Lithuania, and Latvia as part of the Programme on the centenary of Finland´s independence in 2017. The artists presented at Žilinskas Art Gallery, Kaunas are Sara Hornig, Riitta Päiväläinen, Harri Pälviranta, Juha Suonpää, and Juuso Westerlund.
Cultural traditions, the history told and the history left untold – tales and beliefs, all shape our experiences of ourselves as individuals as well as a nation. They affect our ways of seeing and looking at ourselves and at others. National identity can meld us into familiar characterisations, but it can also give us momentary uniqueness. The uniqueness of Independence Through the Lenses –tour is more quotidiar than ceremony speeches. It shows the everyday heroism of coping, managing and letting go, carrying along the memories and the past as part of oneself.
Harri Pälviranta is a photographic artist. He holds a Doctor of Arts degree in photography from the Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture in Helsinki (2012). His works have been exhibited in numerous exhibitions internationally, the latest group shows being held at Tenerife Espacio de las Artes, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Spain, Metropolitan Arts Center in Belfast, Northern Ireland and Fotografie Forum Frankfurt, Germany and solo shows at Gallery H2O in Barcelona, Spain, CFF gallery in Stockholm, Sweden and Tampere Art Museum in Finland. In 2007, he won the prestigious PhotoEspana Descubrimientos award.
Sara Hornig graduated in spring 2017 from the Lahti Institute of Design and Arts. In her work, she addresses political and social matters by means of documentary photography. She is interested in portraying timeless themes that occur in modern times. Hornig also has a BA degree in Social Services, and these two interests, photography and social work, complete each other. With both mediums, she has the opportunity to get a closer understanding of humanity.
Half of Us. 2017
One in five Finns suffer from depression during their lifetime. The disease recurrences in half of the cases. In some cases depression becomes chronic. Meanwhile about 50 percent of Finns have a friend or a relative that suffer from depression at some point of life. The role of the person closest to a depressed person is seldom talked about. The balancing act between taking care of one’s own well being and supporting the depressed one can be hard. Shedding light on the part of the caregiver is important in order to preserve the well being of the helper. The tissues have been collected anonymously from a therapist’s office. The quotes are from interviews of people who are close to someone suffering from depression.
Karoliina Paananen is a freelance journalist studying at Tampere university. She received BA in social sciences in 2017 and in her final theses she focused on how to interview people who are in fragile state while in mentally stressfull interview situations. Paananen has worked as a news and feature reported in various newspapers.
Riitta Päiväläinen graduated from the university of Art and Design in Helsinki in 2002. She has held numerous solo exhibitions in Finland, other Nordic countries, Europe and Japan. Her work is included in several public and private collections both in Finland and abroad.
The art of Riitta Päiväläinen has often been called ”everyday archaeology” or ”unwritten history”. She is interested in the silent history of old and used clothes and fabrics, which is present and absent at the same time. The landscape, disappearing or already gone traces and different phenomena in nature, such as ice and wind are central themes in the art of Päiväläinen. She builds installations from clothes and fabrics that melt into scenery. Water and reflections refer to the subconscious, memory and the past. With the ribbons Päiväläinen creates the beginning of a story into the place that the viewer can continue by building own visions and emotions based on the image.
Like the heat when you enter a sauna Juuso Westerlund’s images are overwhelmingly intense and weird, sometimes grimly cold, yet warm. It´s the rare kind of photography where you just have to see another one, and another one, and when you think you recognise something you are only thrown into another scene from a daily life situation that you most likely haven´t seen before, at least not photographed. Not like this. The photographs reveal a never ending curiosity and love of people, the joy of the absurd and of the surreal. Never boring.
Looking for Heroes
The Finlands national epic, the Kalevala was published in 1835 by Finnish linguist Elias Lönnrot. Kalevala is to Finland what the Iliad is to the rest of the world. Kalevala features the trials & tribulations of many mythological heroes. I searched for these legendary characters from the modern day people. From the same Kainuu region in Finland where the Kalevala stories were originally collected by Lönnrot and his aides. As in the mythological heroes there’s always something heroic and tragical in the people I have photographed for this project. I believe these are the kind of people that the stories would have been told and collected in the time of writing of Kalevala. What kind of person would be todays shaman or the classical hero? In 2014–2015 I travelled around Kainuu region looking for these modern day heroes.
Graduated from the Lahti Institute of Design in 2010. His art deals with the misuse of power through the aesthetics associated with it. The carefully composed, subtle photos with covered characteristics raise questions on what it is to be an individual. The artworks of Helminen have been featured in galleries and publications worldwide.
The Invisible Empire
We want people to be free and independent but it is hard to understand that, for many, freedom still means to be just like others – especially in rough times. Independence is delightfully difficult to define. Humans are social animals who learn by mimicking each other. The Invisible Empire consists of armies, royalty and both religious and mystic movements. These are not usually associated with independence but with its polar opposite: tradition, individual as part of continuity and a tightly formed group. Authoritarian movements have often gained power by emphasizing both national and personal independence. This pattern familiar from the 1930’s totalitarian regimes seems to be slowly repeating itself. Individual independence stands for the freedom of speech, expression, religion and sexual orientation. Still, others’ lives are controlled by populist and xenophobic movements, which are growing in popularity. To be able to hold on to the rights we have gained and to guarantee them also to the ones still lacking them, we have to continue the dialogue. This photo series is part of the discourse.