The Island of Women

For about a two years now I've been working on a photography project about the women in my family. I've been working on it on and off; it's been something that I've done mostly when I've had time of or been on a vacation, so to speak. But it's ready now! I've called it Ämmien Saari, it's a pun on the name Ämmänsaari, which is another name for Suomussalmi, one of the small towns in Kainuu where a lot of my family is from. Not necessarily a great pun, but there you have it.

The exhibition covers about 11 women from both sides of my family. There are obviously a lot more than 11 women in my family but I had to make some kind of cut off. Which is a bit sad, but can't be helped.

I've done a lot of projects about women but a lot of them have been pretty dark. Usually my themes are something like sexual abuse or how (poorly) women are portrayed in popular culture. Among all of that heavy stuff, it was nice to do a feel-good project, so to speak. I watch a lot of movies, read a lot of comics and books etc, in which it's become important to me to see complex and strong female characters. At some point I thought it would be nice to feature regular, everyday women who are just like you and me. Not superheroes but who really represent what it's like to be a woman and in small ways work to make the world better.

A while back, I started thinking about what made me a feminist. I couldn't really answer that. I feel I've been a feminist as long as I remember. The word may not have had a meaning to me when I was a child but I remember always thinking that women should be thought of being just as good as men. Sometimes I felt like the odd one out; I didn't feel like a "normal" girl because while I loved dresses and frills and cute animals, I guess I never saw myself as dainty or pretty or motherly. Those were the values you saw in women, as a child. I never felt like a tomboy either, I liked comic books, superheroes, I liked climbing in trees and was interested in martial arts but then again, I wasn't athletic, I wasn't brave or outgoing, I had no interest in cars or sports. I felt I was somewhere in between. Looking for my place in the world, I felt I wanted to create something for people who also felt they didn't really know how to categorize themselves.

Whatever it was, I have for a long time felt I want to lift women up, I want to represent women, I want to showcase women. I want to make the world more equal. I think this was a good opportunity for that, and it was also a good place to kind of take a look at them women who have shaped me. I wouldn't necessarily say that the women in my family are particularly active in opposing sexism but there's always been a presence of women being very active, smart and strong-willed in my family - as I think it is in many other families. In popular culture, you might sometimes feel women are invisible or are only objects, but in real life, women are very real and present.

In the end, a lot of what I've learnt about life, I've learnt from women. I don't have any brothers and aside from my dad and one male cousin, I didn't have a lot to do with men when I was younger. I've seen a lot of women in my family become entrepreneurs, do many different types of jobs, manage their lives on their own. I've also seen a lot of them go through all kinds of difficulties in their lives, be it illnesses, death of loved ones and such, and still persevere. If I'd want to make generalizations, I'd say the women on my father's side have always been strong-willed, active and loud, in a good way. The women on my mother's side have been sensitive, contemplative and gently persistent. I've learnt the best sides of these qualities from them. If I were to be asked to list what I think are my best attributes, I'd say that I'm creative, emotionally sensitive and have good organizational skills and I would know where all of that comes from.

I also wanted to look at portraits from a documentative point of view. I've been photographing a lot of events and it was fun taking that experience into taking portraits of my family. Usually when you photograph your friends and family, you end up taking photos where they pose, like wedding photos, graduation photos etc, but it was fun to just observe them and try to capture them the way they are everyday. I hope I've succeeded in creating something that honors my family but also honors women in general.

My exhibition is in Kiiminki at the moment, at Syke. The photos will be there until 25th of October and then I'll move the exhibition to the old train station turned into café slash exhibition space of Hyrynsalmi. It will be there through November and in December, it will be at Gallery Kieppi in Suomussalmi.

And tomorrow I'm leaving for Nuuk again! Only for about 10 days this time. Better get packing!


0 kommenttia