The Festival of Political Photography (PVF) has launched a mentoring programme for photographers and artists, aimed at supporting their work on long-term research-based projects. Of the 32 high-standard applications received through the open call for 2021, three photographers were selected for the inaugural programme: Naser Bayat, Shia Conlon, and Noora Sandgren.
The Festival of Political Photography wants to encourage photographers to engage in long‑term visually oriented research. Dedicated photography projects require both considerable material and intellectual resources from photographers. Often, a lack of professional feedback and limits to practical resources pose further challenges for photographers working independently. Therefore, PVF strives to provide professional support and practical resources to photographers working on longer-term projects.
The mentoring programme supports projects and photographers individually, in accordance with case-specific needs. In the course of the year, the photographers selected for the programme will receive professional feedback and support for deepening their examination of the topic, structuring the work, finding suitable pictorial form, and editing the visual material. In addition, selected projects will be supported with a working grant.
The mentoring programme is an independent part of the activities of the Festival of Political Photography and is realised with the generous support of the Patricia Seppälä Foundation.
“But what you
know is you have to continue, you have to have hope, and hope should be the last to die.”
Naser Bayat is a Helsinki-based photographer with roots in Afghanistan and Iran. For him, photography is a way to discover himself and the world around him but also a way to feel alive and see behind the rational mind. Photography taught Bayat to accept new experiences and emotions, to tackle difficulties head-on, and to seek answers and express them through photography. He sees street photography as furthering the language for talking with people and, going beyond this, of showing them what they do not see or do not pay attention to while they are drowning in routine day-to-day life.
Bayat’s photography project Hope as Home explores the meaning of hope among young Afghan people in Finland and Afghanistan. The ongoing negotiations involving the USA, the government of Afghanistan, and the Taliban in Qatar are important for Afghanistan's future, its people, and the younger generation. What the change brings might be worse than the present or the start to the better era people are hoping for. Bayat wants to hear young-generation opinions and feelings about these landmark negotiations. The project starts in Finland with young Afghan asylum-seekers, then continues to Afghanistan. How do young people there see the situation? Bayat hopes to give voice to the young people of his home country through the project. Providing a chance to visualise their thoughts and feelings can, in turn, bring the world awareness of the situation and its ongoing development.
“We are in urgent need of new, meaningful stories that give us back our agency.“
Shia Conlon is an artist originally from Ireland and now based in Helsinki. His practice utilizes writing, filmmaking, and photography to investigate how marginalised and traumatised people can regain control of their narratives through reappraisal of the past. He is interested in how power is entrenched through social structures such as gender, sexuality, religion, class, the family unit, and the state, and how these structures affect the people attempting to live and survive within them. His work explores how power can be reclaimed through the practice of 'witnessing': seizing the opportunity of speaking out over silence, actively looking as opposed to looking away.
Sites of Dreaming is a project documenting the process of hormonal replacement therapy in the experience of various transgender people in Finland. Through long-term application of a documentary-style approach, it will follow several individuals on their path through both DIY HRT and the system for transgender health care in Finland. This project, combining photography and writing, will culminate in a zine. The writing will include a personal essay about Conlon’s own process and interviews with the individuals photographed, alongside more general information about the trans experience in Finland. The zine will serve as an informative source of insight into the process of hormone replacement therapy and will include helpful tips for other transgender individuals on how and where to obtain support in their transition.
“Amidst a forest teeming with diversity, selfhood may be allowed to grow. We continue with and of each other while, on the other hand there’s a stranger inhabiting us to the greatest extent possible.”
Noora Sandgren is a multidisciplinary visual artist who works with photography, installations, the text medium, and event-like elements. With her art, she has studied relationships between different materialities, the vibrancy and circulation of matter, and slowness. Her work is site-sensitive and often takes place in her home garden. Sandgren is interested in gestures related to photography, different modes of presentation, and cameraless photography as a point of connection with gentle anarchy. The emerging works are image prints that express coexistence and draw together the artist and the many others constructing the image.
Sandgren's project Working with neighbor (s): Helsinki Central Park / Forest deals with the photographer's coexistence with the nearby forest of Helsinki’s Central Park. For several decades, Sandgren has been following construction projects that result from pressure for built-up areas along the edges of the forest. She has been observing the forest get gnawed away little by little. How can one deal with the loss of coexistence with a forest full of diverse life? With the project, Sandgren seeks to open prospects for the multi-species rhizome of relationships and the temporal condensations that human beings can so easily break in an instant. The project brings out the manifold non-human beings of the forest, with whom the experience of everyday life may come forth. The familiar home forest is teeming with strangeness hiding in one’s blind spots. Asking how to hear and see this with greater attunement, Sandgren's work emphasises experiential sensory knowledge. She ponders the non-human nature of photography, along with the possibilities for rewilding it. The shared image traces of the artist and those many other contributors to the forest reach out to expand the common notion of photography as time that is frozen and given sharp edges.
Video presentations of mentoring programme projects
Naser Bayat, Shia Conlon, and Noora Sandgren, three photographers selected for the mentoring programme of the Festival of Political Photography, will be describing their photography projects in video presentations:
Thank you Patricia Seppälä Foundation for supporting the mentoring programme!
The Festival of Political Photography organized a cyanotype workshop in the Uutela outdoor area on November 9, 2021. The workshop was guided by visual artist Anne Roininen.
Participants were able to follow as Roininen exposed her work A Tree Fell by exposing an entire tree with cyanotype technique. In addition, the participants were able to make their own cyanotypes on paper, using materials from the surrounding nature, such as leaves, twigs, cones.
The festival wants to thank its partner The City of Helsinki for supporting the exposure and workshop.
Does the photograph of nature represent reality?#Discussionevent
Why do we look at nature through a camera? Does the photograph of nature represent reality? What is real nature or real nature experience? What do nature photography do to our relationship with nature?
At the discussion event of the Festival of Political Photography, photographers Ritva Kovalainen, Antti Haataja and Juha Suonpää talked with Anna-Kaisa Rastenberger, the artistic director of the festival, about why and how photographers today photograph nature and what is the future of nature photography. The discussion took place on 1 December 2021 at the Finnish Museum of Photography and the recording of it can be viewed on the festival's YouTube channel.
The discussion was held in Finnish.
Thank you The Museum of Photography for the cooperation!
Sounds at an Exhibition
In 2017, Selja Purovaara performed a solo concert premiere at the Festival of Political Photography. Purovaara's previous solo concerts Kevätillan liturgia (2016) and Lohtulaulu (2015) explored the interfaces between ugly and beautiful sound. The new work, Sounds at an Exhibition, focuses on tone colours, resonance, and repeating rhythms. In April, the concert was then performed at the Art Museum of Estonia, Kumu, in Tallinn.
The soundscapes created by contrabassist Purovaara invite us to look more deeply into the works at the exhibition.
Sounds at an Exhibition is a sound journey into photography. In this concert, the contrabass and the human voice form a simple, woven-style sound mat in which the exhibition space and artworks can be viewed with new eyes and ears. This minimalist, soundscape-feel concert is always site-specific, inspired by the works in each location’s exhibition: the six parts of the concert mirror and reflect the individual works of art, the exhibition space, and its soundscape.
Purovaara, born in 1989, is a Vantaa-based multi-instrumentalist, composer, arranger, and pedagogue. Among her other projects are work with the instrumental quintet Hohka, playing in the living-room folk band Lovisan keinu, playing the Finnish zither in a duo with singer Sanni Virta, and authoring the video blog Virsi päivässä (‘Verse a Day’) in connection with research into the Evangelical Lutheran Church hymn book.
DRAMA PERFORMANCE: FAMINE#Play
Famine is an interview-based play that looks at hunger. Hunger as a form of suffering affects people all over the world. In this play, a bird biologist, a recovering anorexic, a photographer, and a refugee, among others, talk about hunger. There are several forms of hunger, and this performance is an attempt to look at and truly see these various forms of this distress.Play and script: Marie Kajava
Director: Henri Tuulasjärvi
Performers: Joanna Haartti, Laura Halonen, Ella Lahdenmäki, and Joonas Snellman
ONE YEAR AFTER THE PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS: WHAT IS GOING ON, FINLAND?
Tuesday April 19th 2016 marked the one-year anniversary of the Finnish parliamentary elections. Festival of Political Photography invited photographers and artists to produce photographs that told their views on the current state of Finland. The exhibition spread out on the streets of Helsinki.
Project’s photographers/artists:Stefan Bremer
Häiriköt-päämaja ( Jani Leinonen, Jari Tamminen ja Harro Koskinen)
Tärähtäneet Ämmät (Katriina Haikala ja Vilma Metteri)
In the spring of 2016, the Finnish Museum of Photography, in cooperation with the study programme of museology at the University of Helsinki and the Festival of Political Photography, implemented a project that collected photographs by asylum seekers who had recently arrived in Finland, as well as memories and stories related to these photographs.
A total of 41 photographs were added to the museum’s collection. The donors were asked to choose 5–10 photographs stored on their mobile phones that meant the most to them. Often, the images formed a story about their home country, their difficult journey through Europe, and their hopes and dreams for Finland. The photographs describe the history of the people awaiting the decisions on their asylum applications at the reception centres, while capturing their new daily life in Finland. The interviews that were conducted when the images were donated to the museum added up to 10 hours of material.
Ahmed Alalousi, from Iraq, who worked on the project, edited the footage into a video in which the donors describe the images that are precious to them. Alalousi himself arrived in Finland in autumn 2015 as an asylum seeker, and he worked on the project as an interpreter, photographer and expert.
Mobile albums were exhibited at the Finnish Museum of Photography‘s Process space as part of the The Festival of Political Photography 3.2.–9.4.2017.
#Lullaby sound installation at the Finnish Museum of Photography 15.3-24.3.2016
Sound installation Koditon uni (Homeless Sleep) consisted of lullabies from different parts of the world. The lullabies formed a mass of sounds where listeners could recognize features of different musical cultures but also the universal need to provide safety and care for a child who falls asleep. Most of the songs were recorded in Finland and sung by musicians or music enthusiasts who had moved to Finland from different countries.
The format of the installation consisted of a “Sonic thread”, a chain of small loudspeakers, that permitted distinguishing the individual songs and voices from the mass of sounds by approaching each of the small loudspeakers one by one. Alternatively it was possible to listen to the chaotic mass of repeating melodies, where both rest and unrest were present.
Team: Alejandro Olarte, Outi Korhonen and 18 singers in different languages
Annette Kiener: GERMAN (Germany)
Emma Raunio: SWEDISH, ENGLISH (Finland)
Erick Dæhlin: NORWEGIAN (Norway)
Grisell Macdonel: NAHUATL (Mexico)
Liza Umarova: CHECHEN (Chechnya / Russia)
Manuel Lopez: SPANISH (Spain)
Mari Kalkun: VÕRU (South Estonia)
Marouf Majidi: PERSIAN (Iran)
Menard Mponda: SWAHILI (Tanzania)
Mirjami Ylinen: FINNISH (Finland)
Natalia Castrillón: SPANISH (Colombia)
Olesya Skorbilina: RUSSIAN (Russia)
Riham Isaac: ARABIC (Palestina)
Ruben Gonzalez: SPANISH (Argentina)
Satu Ekman: FINNISH (Finland)
Taika Ilola: FINNISH AND CARELIAN (Finland)
Tristana Ferreyra: SPANISH (Argentina)
Valisa Krairiksh: THAI (Thailand)
Womens’ workshop at Kemiönsaari
In April eight women living in Kemiönsaari began the artworkshop led by Marjo Levlin, with the purpose of discovering ways of interpreting the meaning of places and personal stories that are attached to them.
Against the silence with photography#Workshop
Olof Palme School in the sahrawi refugee camp in Algeria is a vocational school for young women. Sand penetrates every corner of the classroom and blackouts stop the work constantly, putting the students’ patience to the test. But their desire to learn and create is clear. In the workshop organized by The Festival of Political Photography, the students learned the basics of photographic expression, and also created a short documentary film about the Olof Palme school.
At the beginning of 2015, Festival of Political Photography launched the Ekofoto project, which explores opportunities to produce and display photographs in a more eco-friendly manner. That year, a study was carried out on the environmental impact and carbon footprint of alternative mounting materials and types of printing paper. In addition, a Facebook-based discussion channel was established to stimulate dialogue surrounding the topic and develop the work further. The Ekofoto project's research efforts will continue. Simultaneously, the festival strives to offer a concrete example more generally of an environment-friendly way to realise photographic exhibitions. It takes into account the carbon footprint of transporting the artwork, utilises advances in ecologically sound printing materials, and exhibits the photographic works unmounted.
Join Ekofoto Facebook group and be part of the project!
︎ Download Paula Humberg's Ekofoto report (in Finnish)
A workshop was held in the Vanaja prison during autumn of 2014 that produced a film called ”Parantola”.
Working group:Clients at Parantola
Filming and production: Cynthia, Jaanus, Kullenberg and 3573
Workshop instructors: Sanni Seppo and Hannele Martikainen