Workshop in Helsinki, Finland / May, 2018

Miia Autio: Variation of White, 2016. Collection of The Finnish Museum of Photography

The fourth research workshop Fast Forward2: Women in Photographyfunded with The Leverhulme Trust International Network Grant, took place at The Finnish Museum of Photography on May 14 – 15, 2018, hosted by Elina Heikka, Director of the Museum.

Presentations and open discussion took place over the two-day workshop around ideas and themes concerned with the work and position of women photographers today. The summaries of presentations are below.



Professor in Exhibition Studies and Spatiality at the Academy of Fine Arts, University of the Arts Helsinki (Finland)

Feminist curating: Women curating women?

What do we talk about when we talk about feminist curating? Is it talking or acting? Rastenberger observes some of recent practices of feminist curating and reminds herself of a job to be done — of a need to move forward until an equal (photographic art) world is reached. 

Slide from Rastenberger’s presentation

Anna-Kaisa Rastenberger, PhD, works as a Professor in Exhibition Studies and Spatiality at the Academy of Fine Arts, University of the Arts Helsinki. Formerly she worked as the Chief Curator at The Finnish Museum of Photography. Rastenberger is art historian specialising in contemporary art and photographic art. She has extensive experience in exhibition projects, curating practices and the international exhibition scene of the contemporary arts. Her special interests are new forms of photography as contemporary art, exhibition as critical practice and feministic practices on art field. Rastenberger is also an artistic co-director and co-founder of ‘The Festival of Political Photography’, which seeks to examine what the word ”political” means in contemporary extended photographic practices.


Assistant Director and Curator, African Artists’ Foundation (Nigeria)

Time Has Gone. A female version of LagosPhoto Festival, 2018

Since 2010 the annual LagosPhoto Festival has been establishing a community for contemporary photography, which unites local and international artists through images that encapsulate individual experiences and identities from across all of Africa. The festival has become an unique platform in the region. This year’s edition Time Has Gone will be curated by female curators and will exclusively  showcase female artists, who visually explore concepts of temporality and investigate how different layers of time interact with each other (e.g. historically, politically, scientifically, culturally). The concept will be shifting away from conventional female agendas and confronting the subject matter from diverse perspectives. The curatorial approach is currently outstanding in West Africa as photography by female artists is often limited to thematic stereotypes: violence, abuse, sexuality, migration or motherhood. LagosPhoto 2018 aims to create new narratives, claiming a contemporary agency.

Slide from Langhorst’s presentation

Charlotte Langhorst, Dr., is a German freelance art historian who studied Art History, European Ethnology and History in Berlin, Paris and Kiel. Whilst being based in West Africa for more than five years, she held the positions of a research assistant at the University of Ghana and at the Heliopolis University for Sustainable Development in Cairo, Egypt. Currently she works as an affiliated researcher at the University of Lagos.Charlotte Langhorst is the co-author of an anthology on African architecture coming out this Christmas. Her research interests include the architectural heritage of the Tropical Modernism as well as Visual Studies.


Executive Director and Founder, Residency Unlimited (RU) (USA)

Residency Unlimited (RU). A unconventional model artists-in-residency model

Nathalie Anglès discussed how Residency Unlimited (RU), a Brooklyn based residency program sets itself apart from the conventional model of the studio program (defined through occupation of space) through a collaborative approach with a core group of partners and the pooling of resources for the creation of customised residencies.

Nathalie Anglès  is founder and Executive Director of Residency Unlimited (RU) in New York. RU is a not for profit arts organization that fosters customized residencies for US based and international artists and curators. Nathalie is a graduate of the independent curatorial program  École du Magasin (Le Magasin – Centre National d’Art Contemporarin Grenoble, France). From 2000-2008 she was Director of the International Residency Program at Location One, New York (). Previous positions in Paris include: Residency Program Director, American Center, Paris ; Curatorial assistant, Ecole des Beaux Arts (ENSBA), Paris; Curatorial assistant, Union Centrale des Arts Decoratifs (UCAD), Paris.  In 2008, Nathalie received the title of Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters.


Assistant Professor, St.-Petersburg State Institute for Culture (Russia)

Odalisque, Sailor, Indian: performance in late Soviet private photography

Soviet photography is a territory of stereotypes that are a shadow of stereotypes of ‘the Soviet’: things generally known about Soviet photography are, avant-garde of the 1920’s, the propaganda photography in the media, persecution of photographers whose work would not comply with the socialist realism style , and corrections of the truth in photographs, or ‘the commissar vanishes’. All of this creates an idea of Soviet photography being locked up in a tight space between propaganda and the terror of saying more than allowed. I would like to shed light on a practice of private photography that has not been researched yet. It is the practice of dressing up for a photograph, in order to create an image of oneself that will have no other life than in the picture and that has no reason in real life than making a picture. My work is based on my family archive (but is planned to expand), and my aim for the workshop is to develop the methodology of research.

Slide from Gourieva’s presentation

Maria Gourieva, Ph.D, is a researcher and lecturer in photography and visual culture. She teaches history and theory of photography in St.-Petersburg State University, St.-Petersburg Institute for Culture and a number of educational initiatives. Her research has been published in academic journals in Russia and beyond. Gourieva is the founder and co-organizer of After Post-Photography, annual international conference on visual studies and theory of photography in St.-Petersburg.


Artist (Finland)

Empathy in the photographic practice

Empathy might well be the most necessary tool for a portrait photographer. It is also more often referred as a feminine quality. What empathy means to me as a photographer? And how a trust and a possible long-lasting relationship between me and the people I photograph is being built?


Image by Nelli Palomäki, Zane and August (2016), from the series ‘Shared’

Nelli Palomäki (born 1981 in Forssa) currently lives and works in Isnäs and in Helsinki, Finland. She is known for her timeless portraits of children and young people. Her work focuses on the fragility and silence of the moment shared with her subject as well as on the idea of the uncomfortable portrait. Palomäki’s 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. Palomäki’s works have been exhibited in numerous international solo and group exhibitions. Selected solo shows at 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, Galerie Les Filles du Calvaire in Paris 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. Palomäki is represented by Gallery Taik Persons (Berlin) and Galerie Les filles du calvaire (Paris).


Artist (UK)

Sarah Pickering, artist, spoke about how she has started to speak her work about differently she has been a mother, she spoke about her own upbringing, (in 1970s in the midst of the cold war), in a working-class family in the North of England in a mining town. The earliest works she showed was the training town where riots were practiced. She works in a slow considered manner and is interested in dramatic things like explosions, riot, fire etc. She feels that people have difficulty working out her gender from the nature of her practice. The work in the fire training series highlights the way that these organisations objectify the victims of society. She went on to speak about the impoverished position that artists often find themselves in when big institutions aren’t able to pay fees or support artists to come to the showings of their work. Her latest work explores the relationship between the gun world and the photography world – shared language systems.

Sarah Pickering is a London based, British artist interested in fakes, tests, class, sci-fi, explosions, photography and gunfire. Selected group exhibitions include How We Are: Photographing Britain, Tate Britain 2007; Theatres of the Real, Fotomuseum, Antwerp 2009; Manipulating Reality, Palazzo Strozzi, Florence, 2009/10; Signs of a Struggle: Photography in the Wake of Postmodernism, Victoria and Albert Museum, 2011; Living in the Ruins of the Twentieth Century, UTS Gallery, Sydney 2013; and Staging Disorder, LCC London 2015, Revelations, Experiments in Photography, Media Space, Science Museum, London & National Media Museum 2016; Manifesta 11, Zurich 2016 curated by Christian Jankowski and Something Fierce at the Lannan Foundation, Santa Fe, 2017.  Solo exhibitions include Incident Control at the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago 2010 and Celestial Objects at Durham Art Gallery, 2013. She has been the recipient of several awards including the Photographers Gallery Graduate Award, a Jerwood Award for Photography and the mima Castlegate Prize for Photography in 2015. Her work has been featured in numerous publications, and her monograph, Explosions, Fires and Public Order is published by Aperture and MoCP. She currently holds the post of Teaching Fellow in Photography at the Slade School of Fine Art, University College London.


Artist/Photographer; Core Faculty at MFA Photography, Video and Related Media, School of Visual Arts (USA)

Penelope Umbrico talked about her multi-disciplinary photo-based works that explore the ever-changing technologies of image making, and the ever-increasing production and consumption of images on the web. Employing methods of appropriation, extraction, installation and intervention, she utilizes search engines, web platforms, common software applications, and imaging technologies to focus on photographic practices and the cultures that produce them. As she repurposes and re-casts these images, she puts them to work to question what they mean, why they are shared, where the investment is, and what this points to.

Penelope Umbrico (Brooklyn, NY) creates photo-based installations, video, and digital media works that utilize photo-sharing and consumer-to-consumer websites as an expansive archive. Her work explores the production and consumption of images, and questions the technologies that are produced by (and produce) these forces. Umbrico’s work has been exhibited nationally and internationally and her work is represented in museum collections around the world. She is the recipient of many awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship, and a Sharpe-Walentas Studio Fellowship. Her monographs have been published by Aperture NYC and RVB Books Paris.


Curator, Collections, The Finnish Museum of Photography (Finland)

Social Media Diaries – collecting social photography together

“I will present one of the case studies in our ongoing Collecting Social Photo project, in this case focusing on the social media photo sharing practices of two young Finnish women. Both are active instagrammers, but with two different approaches to the medium”.

Slide from Sofia Lahti’s presentation

Sofia Lahti is an art historian living a double life between photography and medieval studies. She has worked in the Finnish Museum of Photography for more than fifteen years, both with exhibitions and collections, currently as a curator of collections. Her passion is facilitating contacts between culture-historical archival materials and contemporary art.


Artist / Curator of FIF BH/ Professor in the Visual Arts, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais (Brazil)

PICK-ME-UP: collaboration and networks

Patricia Azevedo talked about a flexible practice that occurs when the artists are geographically distant or when they are together, taking advantage of these spatial situations as triggers to develop a kind of “conversation” that updates a common territory, that goes “between” the differences put to talk,  composing a dialogical and performative spaces.

Patricia Azevedo, is a visual artist, graduated in Philosophy from the Université Paris VIII, France, with a Master’s degree in Political Philosophy (“Art and Action in Leon Battista Alberti”) and PhD in Visual Arts (“Games of Distance and Proximity: the construction of dialogic space in performative art” with CAPES Award for research at The Warburg Institute-Archive and LADA-Live Art Development Agency, London, under the co-orientation of Dr. Kiff Bamford, UK) both at the University Federal of Minas Gerais (UFMG), Brazil, where she teaches Photography and Performance in the Visual Arts Course. She develops collaborative projects in different media, investigating relations of language, territory and power, working in the public space of the city or the media itself, a work marked by the relationships that are established between people and the communicative act.  She participated in several exhibitions and residences in Brazil and abroad. She composes the curatorship team of the exhibitions of FIF BH – International Photography Festival of Belo Horizonte, Brazil. She is from Recife, lives and works in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.


Visual Artist / Photographer (Finland)

Variation of White & Miss Albino

Through an introduction to my work Variation of White I consider the role of photographic representation in generating power positions and preconceptions. Accompanying video work Miss Albino, depicting a beauty competition for young women with albinism in Tanzania, demonstrates how representation can also work as empowerment – on the other hand leading to more complicated questions about portrayal of women in different contexts.

Slide from Miia Autio’s presentation

Miia Autio is photographer and visual artist who is interested in presenting societal issues in a way that knowledge and understanding is born through the interaction between the viewer and the work. In her works she deals with the themes of identity, foreignness and viewership. Born 1986 in Reisjärvi, Finland. Lives and works in Helsinki, Finland. Holds BA in visual communication from the University of applied in sciences, Lahti and BA in photography and media from the University of applied sciences, Bielefeld. Her work has been shown in various solo and group exhibitions and at festivals internationally, among others in the Finnish museum of Photography, Benaki museum Athens, Deichtorhallen Hamburg, NRW-Forum Düsseldorf, Lagos photo festival and FORMAT-festival. She is the winner of prestigious “gute aussichen – new german photography 2016/2017”


University lecturer, Art History, University of Turku (Finland)

The route of Emmi Fock (1898-1983) into the history of Finnish photography

Emmi Fock was a photographer active especially in 1920s and 1930s in Turku, Finland. She was actively taking part in international exhibitions and competitions and was very much valued as a studio photographer at her time. Anyway, she was all but forgotten before 1990s, when her personal photography attracted the interest of several researchers. In my presentation I will analyse the various reasons for her omission and the role of researchers in including her in the historiography of photography.

Johanna Frigård is an art historian specialized in the history of photography in Finland. Her dissertation (2008) dealt with the modern ideals in published nude photographs in Finland 1900-1940. After that she has been working around photographic exhibitions in VB Photographic Centre and as a researcher. Since 2016 she has been a university lecturer in art history at the University of Turku. In her next research project starting this autumn Frigård will concentrate on the changing meanings of color in the history of photography in Finland.


Documentary photographer (Finland)

Women photographers representing women

The presentation is based on Talassalo’s ongoing MA thesis research in which she explores how women photographers represent women in the field of documentary photography. She discusses the representation of women and female gaze that are layered and complex phenomena, which offer important aspects into the discourse of contemporary photography.

Image by Milla Talassalo from series ‘Triplet sisterhood, 2017

Milla Talassalo (b. 1981) is a documentary photographer in her early career. She is currently finishing her Master’s degree in Visual Journalism at the University of Tampere, Finland. Talassalo is interested in long-term documentary projects especially related to gender, identity and body. At the moment she is working on a personal photography project about triplet sisterhood.


Artist (Finland)

Erica Nyholm, artist, spoke about her work, which has been guided by a chapter in a book owned by her grandmother that reflected many of the conservative ideas that she herself was brought up with as one of seven children. The chapter is titled: A Guide for the Young For All Stages of Life, 1863. Erica creates staged tableaux that depict stories from her past and present, the work is autobiographical. Her photographs frequently depict women, mothers, daughters, grandmother and the relationships between them in a spare and deliberate manner.

Was born in 1982 in Finland. Nyholm has a BA in photography from the Turku Arts Academy, 2008, and a MA in photography from Aalto University – School of Arts, Design and Architecture, 2013. In her mise-en-scene based practice she focuses on family relationships. Selected solo exhibitions: Blue Scene, Gallery Kluuvi, Helsinki, 2014 and A Room of One´s Own II, Gallery Hippolyte, Helsinki, 2012. Selected group exhibitions: Minän teatteri, Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova, Turku, 2017, Gestos Hacia uno Mismo, Tenerife Espacio de las Artes, Teneriffa, 2015 and Encontros da Imagem de Braga, Braga, 2014. Nyholm was selected as a winner of spanish photography prize called Pilar Citoler international Prize for Photography 2015 and is now preparing a solo show in Finnish Museum of Photography, Helsinki. She has worked in residency programs such as Cité des Arts Paris 2016 and 2013, and Pole Image 2013. She is represented by MC2 Gallery Milano.


Independent researcher and artist (Finland)

“I would like to talk about the early history of our education – how it facilitated the work of women in photography. The majority of portrait photographers have always  been women, but extremely few in other fields. in 1980  I was asked to write an article about Finnish (contemporary) female photographers and I found just many, three of them in in the beginning of of a promising career: Merja Salo, Liisa Karvonen and Hannele Rantala. They were students at that time. I was astonished to notice how their work and the work of other girls had not been published equally along with the works of male photographers. Was there a real difference in the way they saw the world – and what kind of a difference? A couple of years later we organised in Helsinki an exhibition of women, and there were already 27 interesting participants. Sometimes more than half of the students  have been women even since, as well as teachers”.

Slide from Leena Saraste’s presentation

Leena Saraste, PhD (b.1942)  is an independent researcher and artist from Helsinki. After a couple of short films, and some nine years as a photojournalist and fashion photographer she has been teaching photography since the early 1970s, and served as professor and the head of the Department of Photography at the University of Art and Design (now Aalto University) in the 1970s and the 1990s. She has published several books on the history of photography as well as photographic volumes, and exhibited widely, for example “Bird forests and grazing Meadows, ecological photographs from Aland Islands”, 1977 and “Beirut – a Farewell in August”, 1983. Her work is eminently documentaristic, yet it also has a strand of exuberant playfulness that mixes different media and comments on history, as seen in her latest works   ( for example “Stitches” together with Ulla Jokisalo). She has participated in (or organized) several exhibitions of women photographers, starting in 1977.


Professor of Photography and Visual Communication, Department of Media, Aalto University (Finland)

Merja Salo talked about education and Helsinki School.

Slide from Merja Salo’s presentation

PhD Merja Salo is Professor of Photography and Visual Communication in Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture in Helsinki, Finland. She has been teaching history of photography since 1991 and published books about photojournalism, advertising images and fashion photography. Her latest book (Jokapaikan valokuva, 2015) chronicles the development of digital photography in Finland and how this new technology affected the professional fields of photojournalism, studio photography, art photography, and amateur photography. Originally a photographer, Merja Salo continues her artistic practice as well and has published a photo book Carscapes – Automaisemia in 2011.


Associate Professor, AJK Mass Communication Research Centre, Jamia Millia Islamia (India)

Sohail Akbar did a short presentation around a couple of his students current photo projects and talk about them. He showed how they in teaching try to inculcate thinking on issues that are of concern in this part of the world and how their students give it a visual treatment.

Slide from Sohail Akbar’s presentation

An avid Practitioner and Teacher of Still Photography Sohail Akbar’s association with photography goes back more than two decades when he was a student at Mass Communication Research Centre, Jamia Millia Islamia. He has taught photography to MA Mass Communication students and designed the Post Graduate Diploma course here. Apart from development of photography teaching here in Jamia Millia Islamia the National Open Schooling system has used his expertise in designing their curriculum for the 10 + 2 course which is taught country wide. Along with teaching photography Sohail Akbar is also a practitioner Film maker, Still photographer and Photography researcher. He has made a series of documentary/educational films on topics as diverse as biotechnology, victims of conflict and issues around the transgender people. His still photography work has featured for international organisations like United Nations, World Bank and publications like the Financial Times of London and Little Brown, England. Two solo exhibitions have been mounted by him, the last being in April 2011 at the India Habitat Centre, New Delhi. The family photo album is the area of research interest to him and he has been exploring it in his writing and documentation work.

The other participants of the workshop who haven't presented but fully contributed to the discussions:


Photographer / Professor of Photography at UCA (UK)

Anna Fox is an acclaimed British photographer and Professor of Photography at University for the Creative Arts. Working in colour, Fox first gained attention for Work Stations(1988), a study of office culture in Thatcher’s Britain. She is best known for Zwarte Piet (1993-8), a series of portraits exploring Dutch black-face’ folk traditions. Other projects The Village (1992), a multi-media installation examines the experiences of rural women, and Friendly Fire, records paint-balling in war reportage style. Her publications includeCockroach Diary and My Mother’s Cupboards (2000), Anna Fox Photographs 1983 – 2007, published by Photoworks. Fox’s solo shows include Photographer’s Gallery, London, Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago amongst others. Her work has been in international group shows including Centre of the Creative Universe: Liverpool and the Avant Garde at Tate Liverpool and How We Are: Photographing Britain at Tate Britain. She was shortlisted for the 2010 Deutsche Borse Prize. Fox has been awarded grants from UKIERI and PMI2 for collaborative work in India and in 2015 was lead organizer for the Fast Forward conference at Tate Modern. In  2016 she was awarded an International Network grant from the Leverhulme Foundation for the Fast Forward 2 project concerned with raising the profile of women in photography.


Director, Association of Photographic Artists / Photographic Gallery Hippolyte (Finland)

Henna Harri has been working as a director in the Association of Photographic Artists and in the Photographic Gallery Hippolyte since 2016. The gallery is run by the association and it is the oldest gallery focusing on photography in Finland. Previously she has worked in the Aalto University as a lecturer of Managing and Mediating Art in the School of Art, Design and Architecture. Her background is in art education and in organizing, coordinating and managing within various organizations in Finnish art field after her graduation from the University of Lapland in 1998. Henna Harri’s interests lie in-between mediating, the curatorial, and the organizing: how work is divided, substances are treated and situated, and meanings created in organizational structures or more informal communities within the arts sector.


Director of The Finnish Museum of Photography (Finland)

Elina Heikka is Museum Director at The Finnish Museum of Photography in Helsinki since 2007. The Museum, founded in 1969, is the national special museum for photography and puts on exhibitions of Finnish and foreign contemporary photography, and presents the diverse history of photography. 

Elina Heikka holds MA in art history. She was editor and editor-in-chief  in Valokuva – Finnish Photography magazine from 1994 to1998. After that she worked as a researcher at the Finnish Museum of Photography and as a special researcher at the National Gallery / Central Art Archives from 2001 to 2007.  She has published widely on contemporary photography, history of Finnish photography, contemporary art and visual culture. Since 1994 she has lectured extensively, for example as a guest lecturer at the University of Art and Design  (Aalto University since 2010), at Turku Art Academy and abroad. She has curatorial experience from photo gallery Workshop (Helsinki, Finland 1996-1998) and several museums in Helsinki.


Chief Curator, Collections, The Finnish Museum of Photography (Finland)

Anni Wallenius works as Chief Collections Curator at the Finnish Museum of Photography. At her work she is responsible for planning and developing museum’s work on its collections, including methods, tools and processes of collections management, collecting initiatives and curating exhibitions. As national specialized museum of photography her institution is interested in collecting and documenting all aspects of different photographic cultures ranging from photographic art to visual social media. The collection includes more than 2 million images (link). She is part of the Nordic Research project, Collecting Social Photography, which studies vernacular social media photography as cultural heritage. She holds MA in Art History and is a member of co-ordination group of Finnish National network for collections management co-operation and present day documentation (TAKO).