Art department finishes Finnish photography exhibit

BY ADDY FORTE | Evergreen fine arts reporter

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Finnish photographers found a place in Gallery Two at the WSU fine arts department. “A Sense of Place: Contemporary Finnish Photography” features five photographers as they explores the idea of “place.” The photographic works of Ilkka Halso, Marja Pirila, Laura Konttinen, Terhi Asumaniemi, and Petri Nuutinen are on display in the gallery, which closes Friday.

Terhi Asumaniemi, one of the featured artists, said she met WSU assistant professor Dennis DeHart in Finland while DeHart was the artist in residence for the 2013 Backlight Photo Festival. Asumaniemi said they kept in contact when DeHart went back to the U.S., and this exhibit came from their continued collaboration.

“I love them all for different reasons,” DeHart said of the photographers.

He said featured photographer Laura Konttinen achieves effects by hand in her photographs that most create in Photoshop. He said she cuts out and collages small scenes and then uses photographs to document them. Whereas Asumaniemi’s photos are caustic and almost look like paintings and are usually displayed on wood, he said.

DeHart said he included the exhibit in a lecture he gave at Western Washington University, and it seemed generally well received by the photography community.

“In a broader, global community sense it seemed like a good idea to display their work here,” DeHart said.

DeHart said the exhibit is in line with WSU’s global outreach and community interests, while the photos and their subject matter reflected his own interests.

“Every person has a specific place that is important to them,” Asumaniemi said. “The place might be the same geographically as someone else’s, but it reveals itself differently to different people.”

She said her work focuses on the relation between nature and culture and how humans interact with the environment.

“I hope that my artwork evokes a variety of ideas and experiences in viewers,” she said.

Konttinen said she strives to capture, “how a place is experienced on a personal and social level, how it merges with one’s life story and starts to symbolize a moment or an era.”

She said landscapes everywhere contain stories, memories and wishes, and she tries to capture both the physical and the imagined aspects of a place in her photography.

“To me,” she said, “a central and the most fascinating part of any place is its invisible quality.”

Photographer Petri Nuutinen, also featured in the show, said his recent work captures how people see a place.

He said he tries to mimic the natural human gaze, “Not just staring to one point and thinking everything as rectangular form.”

Typically, Nuutinen said, his photos are printed on hand-shaped and hand-painted metal plates, adding uniqueness to the physical image. The current digital era means his work can easily be displayed around the world, he said, but also means that for this exhibit his work is printed on paper.

It might seem like the internet and constant social media would be a blessing for an artist trying to get exposure, but being a part of a physical exhibition internationally is a more fulfilling experience, Konttinen said.

“Besides a book, a gallery, to me,” she said, “is still very much ‘the place’ where photographic art is usually at its best.”

People are surrounded by a “flood of images” every day, but they rarely pause to really look at any one picture, Konttinen said. In a physical art exhibit you have to take the time to walk from piece to piece, she said.

“And maybe someone will actually spend a while getting lost in an image,” she said.

The exhibit is open 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. in Gallery Two on the main floor of the Fine Arts Building. The last day of the exhibit is Friday.​