For many years, Germany was the hot zone of European art photography, thanks to the alumni of photographic pioneers Bernd and Hiller Becher from the Düsseldorf Academy. Now it is Finland’s turn, with Helsinki’s University of Art and Design the star turn at art fairs and biennials. For about 30 years this art school – the largest in Scandinavia – has incubated photographers whose work is collectively known as the Helsinki School. Led by photographers Ola Kolehmainen and Timothy Person – curator of this show at Purdy Hicks Gallery in London’s Bankside – several generations of Helsinki-trained photographers have emerged. So, does it have an overriding style? That’s harder to answer, but the work has a less harsh and more lyrical nature than that of the Düsseldorf photographers. Some, like Jorma Puranen and Sandra Kantanen, mix paint and photography, while others veer towards abstraction and an innovative approach to natural subjects. Helsinki’s art school has evolved from documentary photojournalism to a more conceptual, art-based photography. That might make you think the work will be inaccessible, but it remains largely within reach.
The Helsinki School runs from 22 March to 21 April at Purdy Hicks Gallery, 65 Hopton Street, Bankside, London SE1