Some Observations of the Finnish Political System by Sakari Piipo at the Finnish Museum of Photography

Hi there, Alice here! As I said I’d do in this week’s episode, here’s a blog post about one of the cool exhibitions I saw when I visited The Finnish Museum Photography in Helsinki last month. So, here we go.

Some Observations on the Political System in Finland by Sakari Piipo is exactly that: some observations on how politics and politicians are conducted/conduct themselves in Finland. But before you think about the red-faced, emotive paparazzi shots of politicians you’d see adorned on the front pages of a tabloid, think again. What we have here is a fantastic mix of the mundane. Things like the crumpled suits and ties of politicians after a long day, and the types of shoes that some of them choose to wear. These two themes specifically have been curated into very visually-appealing displays.

What I found so compelling about Piipo’s work is the flash photography element. A style often reserved for the more paparazzi-style shooting where good lighting is necessary to capture the subject, here it makes the normal and the uninteresting stand out. People behind laptops and enjoying a sit-down between meetings become more coveted and exciting moments, not just an everyday activity.

My favourite section of this exhibition, purely for the aesthetic of the subject matter, is the section about voting. These little Finnish voting booths, not too dissimilar from the ones we’re accustomed to in the UK, are just adorable. Their delightful pastel colours, accentuated by the flash of Piipo’s camera, contrast with the pair of legs you see of the anonymous voters. Simply put, it just looks so bizarre, and that’s why I love it. 

An interesting part of this exhibition is the one titled ‘Sensorship’. Not long into this 3-year documentary project, a government official dictated that Piipo was “in possession of property belonging to the Prime Minister’s office”. The argument was, despite Piipo’s lawyer arguing to the contrary, that the rights to the photos they had taken “are silently transferred to us [the Prime Minister’s office]”. This, of course, is nonsense as the photographer always retains the rights to their work. Sure, a motion could be filed to prevent them from being shown in a public forum. But the rights would not be transferred to the government. What a weird thing to say. Either way, despite Piito going though and censoring every identifiable image of a politician (see below) no agreement was ever reached, and one can see these photos in the exhibition or in Piito’s book of the same name. 

I was very pleasantly surprised by this exhibition and glad I popped along. Whilst it’s on for a while I can’t really recommend you go see it because it’s all the way in Finland. Of course, if you’re in the area then absolutely go for it! There were two other fab exhibitions on as well for you to sink your teeth into! 

Thanks for giving this a read! 

-Alice