State of Emergency 2020 – Finland

FORMAT’s Louise Fedotov Clements was invited to curate Week Four of the Finnish Covid 19 Photography Project.

Each week a group of over 170 photographers from Finland, Tallinn, Paris and New York record everyday life in their limited and immediate circle. Participants are committed to making at least one photograph each day throughout the project. The initiative is led by a team consisting of creative director and publisher Hannamari Shakya along with photojournalists Markus Jokela, Liisa Huima and Antti Yrjönen. Each week until the end of the lockdown a guest curator will select an edit and share their thoughts.

The project invites us to look at the shifting reality as the global curfew takes hold.  Life as we knew it has slowly faded away and a new world order has started to take shape as our horizons close in.

We are united though this common experience, at a time of heighten emotions and creativity. For many, photography has become a lifeline as we seek to communicate over the digital airwaves.  We share moments of fear, loneliness and separation and celebrate invention and kindness, creating a sense of community amongst strangers.  This time of imposed reflection has provided an opportunity to take a pause in our busy lives and stop, rethink and reinvent ourselves for better or worse.

In making her selection Fedotov Clements observed that “ it is clear to see that in this enforced moment of slowing down, we are looking more closely at our living spaces, neighbours, the light on the wall, the view from our windows, aging fruit, homeschooling, DIY. Our attention has been brought back to the microcosm of our domestic spaces and the people that we share it with, or not.

Being housebound is not a new thing and there are many people for whom this has already been a reality. But the equalising effect of the lockdown en masse enables us to relate to each other through unique shared experiences. Indeed where space is more scarce, people have a new love for the space right outside or even on their doorsteps. Reclaiming personal territory is a common sight across the world as we go out for some fresh air, see the sun or exercise whilst eyeing each other suspiciously and observing the social distancing rules.

Rethinking our public spaces is one of the many new norms that we have to navigate during this era of Covid-19.”

The images in this online exhibition show us some extraordinary views of what is going on in Finland. Humour, DIY, dogs in the shower, gardening, and childcare are common motives; a playfulness in these stir-crazy situations alongside darker emotions of anxiety, frustration and fear, as attempts are made to make the days somehow enjoyable.

For Fedotov Clements the photographs that held a deeper resonance, include a collection of images of children playing with their father with two stretch bands; the slimy banana salad; the lady with the saucepan over her face; the overflowing rubbish bin, the wild garlic by Jyri Pitkänen and the sublime still life by Ella Kiviniemi.

The pictures by Katja Tähjä, of the lonely walks in the wood at night are poetic, the children sitting by the kitchen table and the man laying down on the floor trying to work among the toys and toddler games are compelling. Ella Kivimäki’s works are particularly strong as laying bare a room full of detail and life layered up, she shares the intimacy of the life that we tend to hide.

Fedotov Clements also enjoyed the two artists who punitively/performatively hung themselves on a frame, in the place where you’d hit the dust from rugs (Elias Lahtinen ja Saara Tuominen), offering themselves up to be cleansed, they remain unrequited.

There is a post-apocalyptic feeling in the images of Janne Savon, of empty streets, reflected light and a solitary figure, alongside the black and white, cinematic noir image by Mirella Penttilä. These images are made possible by the lack of people, empty streets are cinematic, we can’t escape seeing echoes of post apocalyptic narratives from blockbuster films. Esa Luoto’s birch tree, lit at night, is a great example of this moment when you have more time, you can actually start to create something special.

For her final selection Fedotov Clements allowed her own experience of the lockdown to influence her interpretations of the photographs, reacting to the images subjectively as she explored the nuance of ideas and intention.

The final edit is both personal and a reflection of this new world of isolation.

The photographers chosen in this online exhibition are:

Ella Kiviniemi, Maarit Hohteri, Eeva Anundi, Janne Savon, Joel Karppanen, Emilia Anundi, Rebecca Watson, Marjaana Malkamäki, Annika Pitkänen, Katja Tähjä, Elias Lahtinen & Saara Tuominen, Esa Luoto, Tuomas Aro, Soile Kallio, Heidi Holma, Emmi Minkkinen, Aisha Benahmed, Laura Talvitie, Jyri Pitkänen, Mirella Penttilä, Erkki Lampén, Mikko Suutarinen, Jonna Öhrnberg, Samuli Ikäheimo, Maiju Pohjanheimo

To see more from the State of Emergency Project visit their website here.