Flashes from Finland

26 marraskuun, 2013  |  Published in UP-TO-DATE

Photo: Kai Fagerström, National Geographic 2012


Päivälehti Museum, Helsinki, Finland

October 17th – December 29th, 2013

Cuarator and Manuscript of the exhibition: Hannu Vanhanen


National Geographic (NG) is a popular coffee table magazine in many Finnish homes. The yellow frame on its cover represents an iconic brand.

Finns are sensitive to what others think about their country. For this reason, the image that a popularAmerican scientific magazine conveys of Finland arouses interest, respect and even fear.

National Geographic often creates a stereotypical image of a small people and their “otherness”. This exhibition explores images and photographic essays published in the magazine and the myths that they maintain. It is a visual statement on the recent discussion on Finland’s brand as a country. The exhibition covers a period of almost 100 years. One of its oldest photographs is this image of Senate Square in Helsinki from 1914.

The themes of the exhibition reflect the aspects and phenomena that National Geographic emphasizes. Geographically, the exhibition is comprehensive, covering Finland from the Åland Islands to Lake Inari. The strict editorial policy and North American perspective of National Geographic add a distinct tone tothe stories of Finland. Senate Square, icebreakers, Lapland and the Åland Islands are recurring themes.

Finland is also portrayed as a Nordic, nearly Arctic country and a coastal state of the Baltic Sea. Despite the postcard clichés of the exotic North in the earlier images, National Geographic paints a diverse picture of Finland. The eyes of an outsider always see more: fresh perspectives, new insights. The photographic essays published between the 1960s and 1980s reflect the trademark narrative style of National Geographic. High-quality Kodachrome and black-and-white images, explorative journalism, illustrative maps and informative captions create a comprehensive and impressive experience for the reader.

When the political tension between the East and the West subsided in the early 1990s, National Geographic lost interest in Finland. It rediscovered the country in the early 2000s. Today, its freelance photographers immerse themselves in extensive projects that the editorial office in Washington DC integrates into the illustrious concept of the magazine.

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