The travelling photographic exhibition Three Northern Views by the Museum Centre Vapriikki, Tampere, Finland at the Slovene Ethnographic museum is the result of collaboration between the two institutions.
For most visual artists and photographers the North has represented a distance from their own sphere of life, the South. For them the North is not only a geographical area, but something akin to a state of mind. Perceptions of the North differ according to whether those observing are focused on the people or the scenery: some centre on the North's inhabitants, and some on the North's unspoilt and deserted wildernesses.
There are also other ways of looking at the North through Southern eyes. The anthropologist's perception of the North is framed by the concept of Finno-Ugrian origins. The Northern nomadic tribes were regarded as representing an early stage of cultural development and, by researching it, academics hoped to shed light on the whole ethnic development process.
In the North, Finns were interested in the character of the Sami. They were seen both as a part of Finnishness, as a nomadic vestige within the culture, and as an independent ethnic minority. At first anthropologists sought Sami racial traits, ethnologists looked for evidence of exotic primitiveness, romantics wanted nomadic tribes free from the corruption of civilisation, while hikers, for their part, were looking for deserted landscapes on a grand scale, free from the presence of people.
The North is a very broad term. In Finland the North for some people might start at the lijoki River near Oulu, while for others it starts no earlier than the Sami territory in Sodankylä's Vuotso. Some insist that the Arctic Circle is the border of the North. Lapland is combined with the North but, as a term, is even more unreliable except when we are speaking strictly about the region of Lapland. However, even wider than the region of Lapland is the Lapland of the three Nordic countries which, in Sweden and Norway extends quite a long way south. Ethnically-speaking, the idea of the North is situated most naturally in the Sami area of Lapland.
Hannu Sinisalo, from the book Three Northern Views, p. 42, Tampere Museums, 2005
Three Northern Views is thus an exhibition presenting three diverse perceptions of the North: from an anthropologist, a romantic and a selection of hikers. All three views of the North are different in their treatment of its inhabitants and its natural heritage. Some photographs portray the people of the area, while others focus on the landscape free of human life.
The exhibition shows three groups of pictures taken by five different photographers: the Romantic's North by Samuli Paulaharju (1875−1944), the Anthropologist's North by Erkki Ala-Könni (1911−1996), and the Hikers' North by Raimo O. Kojo (b. 1939), Eero Rasi (b. 1951) and Hannu Sinisalo (b. 1952). All their photos help to create a preserved, fixed and timeless impression of the North.
Exhibition curator and coordinator at SEM: Nina Zdravič Polič in cooperation with Marjo-Riitta Saloniemi, Museum Centre Vapriikki, Tampere