Nelli Palomäki


The longest relationship we will ever have is commonly with a person we did not even choose to grow up with – our sister or brother. This relationship is extraordinary both in a physical and spiritual way, but does carry its reverse too. Out of all our relationships this might well be the trickiest one. Underneath the cohesion and love, there are more complex emotions like competition, envy and concern for the other.

These photographs explore the siblinghood through portraiture. And furthermore, particularly the act of touching has become a crucial part of the work. Togetherness with all its complexity is built around simple gestures like holding, grabbing or quietly leaning to another. I never shared this type of physical closeness with my own sister, despite our close-knit relationship. I follow these siblings with great confusion (and little envy) as they stand quietly holding each other, sometimes for hours.

Recently my interest towards the spiritual connection between the siblings has taken over. Older siblings guarding and guiding their little sisters and brothers. At times it feels like one can sense the other one’s intentions. Instead of striving for showing only the physical connection and appearances, I’m chasing the aura of each pair.

We use our siblings as our mirrors, through them we study both our worshipped and unwanted features. As a result we quickly begin to see ourselves in a relation to another. As a little sister myself, and as a mother of two little children, there are many personal interests involved too. No matter how equal we wanted to see our family relationships, there is always some disparity. This disparity, along with the comparison between the siblings, continue to follow us throughout our lives.

I often photograph strangers and many times an unique long-lasting relationship is built. As a photographer I am focused on how we see ourselves, and how that image differs from the one we see in the photograph. We are so afraid of someone capturing us, and we being unable to figure out this person. I am hugely fascinated by the act of posing, and as children grow, I love to witness how a just-standing-there changes into actively posing.

About the Artist

Artist Website

Nelli Palomäki is known for her timeless portraits of children and young people. Her photographs deal with our growth, family relationships, memory and our problematic way of seeing ourselves. She is a graduate of Aalto University School of Art, Design and Architecture in Helsinki.

Selected solo shows at Galerie Les filles du calvaire in Paris, Gallery Forum Box in Helsinki, Ordrupgaard Art Museum in Copenhagen, The Finnish Museum of Photography in Helsinki, Les Rencontres d’Arles (Discovery Award nominee), Kulturhuset in Stockholm and at Turku Art Museum. Her photographs have been shown in several group shows including Helsinki Art Museum, Espoo Museum of Modern Art, Hasselblad Center in Gothenburg, Daegu Photo Biennale in South Korea, Fotografie Forum Frankfurt, MACRO Testaccio in Rome, The National Museum of Photography in Copenhagen, Stadtgalerie Kiel and Aperture Gallery in New York. Palomäki’s photography has been featured in several publications such as TIME magazine, British journal of photography, Independent magazine and New York Magazine. Her book Breathing the Same Air was published spring 2013 by Hatje Cantz.

In 2010 Hasselblad Foundation awarded her the Victor Fellowship Grant for the studies in London. She has been selected as one of the young emerging artist for the reGeneration2–Tomorrow’s Photographers Today project. In summer 2012 Palomäki was nominated for the Discover Award at the Rencontres d’Arles in France. Permanent collections include: Moderna Museet in Stockholm; The Hague Museum of Photography, Hasselblad Foundation in Gothenburg and Helsinki Art Museum. Palomäki is represented by Gallery Taik Persons (Berlin), Galerie Les filles du calvaire (Paris) and Jackson Fine Art (Atlanta).