Glimpses of the Unattainable


Finnish Museum of Photography | Project Space


Hertta Kiiski & Niina Vatanen

The exhibition Tavoittamattomien hetkien häivähdyksiä (‘Glimpses of the Unattainable’) is based on materials donated to the Finnish Museum of Photography by an amateur photographer. A joint effort between the curator Mirjami Schuppert and two artists, Hertta Kiiski and Niina Vatanen, the exhibition explores the photographic archive as something that generates multiple meanings and that is a continuous and plentiful source of inspiration.

The pieces in the exhibition are part of Hertta Kiiski’s work Present (Thank You Helvi Ahonen) and Niina Vatanen’s work Archival Studies/A Portrait of an Invisible Woman, which were created as a response to Helvi Ahonen’s collection, housed at the Finnish Museum of Photography. The 5,000 negatives that made up the original material tell a touching story about Helvi Ahonen’s life, with all its joys and sorrows. However, in its ordinariness and everydayness, the photographic material remains almost anonymous and becomes nearly fictional.

Cultural-historical photography stored in archives is often understood as evidence of the past, or the visual realisation of history. The exhibition seeks to find a new way of looking at old photographs, by encountering them in the present and seeing them as building the future.

Kiiski and Vatanen approach the material based on intuition, amazed by its wealth and moved by Helvi Ahonen’s presence. In her works, Hertta Kiiski approaches the archive from the point of view of giving and receiving presents, while analysing the layers of temporality and truth in the archived photographs.

Niina Vatanen, in turn, uses her works to discuss photography and archiving in terms of processes, randomness and errors. Vatanen’s works bring out that which has remained invisible, as they restore photographs doomed to be destroyed.


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Credit: Virve Laustela/Finnish Museum of Photography


Credit: Virve Laustela/Finnish Museum of Photography


Credit: Virve Laustela/Finnish Museum of Photography


Credit: Virve Laustela/Finnish Museum of Photography