10 Finnish Photographers You Should Know

Skibotn, Norway, 1967 | © 
Courtesy of Ismo Hölttö
Skibotn, Norway, 1967 | © Courtesy of Ismo Hölttö
Photo of Jessica Wood
10 April 2017

Since the early days of photography, Finnish photographers have been perfectly capturing the beauty of natural landscapes, the struggles and everyday lives of people in Finland, and important historical moments. These are just a few of the best, both past and present:

Elina Brotherus

Regarded as one of the most internationally famous Finnish photographers today, Brotherus explores the presence and absence of love in her work, and the relationship between people and landscapes, among other themes. She is often exhibited at major Finnish museums, and abroad as well—as the winner of the 2017 Carte Blanche PMU Prize, her work is currently on show at the Pompidou Center in Paris.

Marcello’s Theme / Courtesy of Elina Brotherus

Matti Aikio

Aikio is one of the most prominent up and coming creatives on the Finnish art scene. As a visual artist, he works mainly in photography and video, as well as sculpture and sound art. He is descended from a Sami reindeer-herding family, a job he still practices along with his art, and often brings attention to the struggles of his native people through his works.

An example of Aikio’s work | © Matti Aikio / Poster Boy / Flickr

Nana & Felix

Nana & Felix are a Korean-Finnish artist duo who have had photography shown in both countries. The pair use their different backgrounds to explore social and political issues through the language of photographic art. They look at how different social systems function, who sets the boundaries, and why.

Claire Aho

Photographer and novelist Claire Aho was one of the first pioneers of colour photography in Finland in the 1950s and 60s. In 1968, her photos of Helsinki were used to represent Finland at the Scandinavia exhibition in Kiel, Germany. These images provide a glimpse into what the city was like at the time. In her later years she focused mainly on fiction and won the prestigious Finlandia Prize in 2009.

Helsinki South Harbour in 1968 | © JB / Claire Aho

I.K. Inha

Inha is referred to as the ‘grand master’ of Finnish photography, during what is now known as the Golden Age of Finnish Art. He chronicled Finnish folk traditions and landscapes in the late 19th and early 20th century that were rapidly disappearing due to industrialisation. He even travelled the countryside by bicycle to capture these images. He was also one of the first photographers from Finland to be sent abroad to take photos of foreign conflicts for Finnish newspapers.

Inha’s photo of Helsinki harbor taken in 1908 | © I.K.Inha / Flickr

Per Olav Jansson

The brother of Finnish artist and writer Tove Jansson, creator of the Moomin series, Olav came from an incredibly accomplished creative family that continues to be an important part of the Finnish creative scene. Not only did he document pictures of his sister that were used in biographies of her, he founded a photography company with his brother Lars and has had solo exhibitions in Finland.

One of Per Olav Jansson’s photos of his sister Tove | © Per Olav Jansson

Eija-Liisa Ahtila

Ahtila is a highly accomplished artist and filmmaker who has had work displayed and held at the Tate Modern in London, a video project presented at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, and was a professor at the Finnish Academy of Fine Arts. Her work explores themes of identity and feminism, focusing especially on women who have been through traumatic experiences.

Courtesy of Eija-Liisa and Marian Goodman Gallery

Signe Brander

Brander is most well-known for her collection of photos which reflected the changing cityscape of Helsinki in the early 20th century, a time of great social, political, and physical change within Finland. She also took many pictures of old battlefields of the Finnish War of 1808–09. She is remembered not only for providing a record of what Helsinki looked like at the time but also for being one of the first female photographers to be commissioned for such a job.

One of Brander’s images of Helsinki in 1907 | © Signe Brander / Goodfreephotos.com

Ismo Hölttö

Hölttö was another photographer who documented social change in the 1960s and captured images of marginalised and often overlooked people, in this case the Romani people and other remote communities. He shot his collection over the course of nine years, starting when he was only 22 years old and has now been represented in several countries throughout Europe.

Helsinki, Finland, 1966 | Courtesy of Ismo Hölttö

Arthur Gunnar Lönnqvist

Lönnqvist is also known for capturing some important and powerful war imagery, this time of the Finnish civil war, particularly the Battle of Helsinki in 1918. He was also the managing director of his own photography company up until he was 75 years old, which was primarily responsible for distributing Kodak products in Finland.

At the ruins of Turku barracks in Helsinki, 1918 | At the ruins of Turku barracks in Helsinki | © Arthur Gunnar Lönnqvist / WikiCommons

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