This winter (of 2014), due to family circumstances, I have encountered an opportunity to spend five months in Finland’s capital Helsinki. One day while visiting historical sites, I came across the old cemetery in Helsinki (Hietaniemen hautausmaa) and I was amazed and touched by inspiring works of art: sculptures, crosses decorated with the ornaments, headstones engraved with the variety of symbols pointing to the deceased’s social, religious or political affiliation. The cemetery is probably the biggest free art gallery under the sky.
For about two weeks (in February and March) I have been taking pictures of different works of art that caught my eye, and I made about 1000 images. I classified them by their type and symbolic references, and I put them on the web on this special website. I would like to give an opportunity to people who do not have a chance to travel but are interested in cemetery to get acquainted with Finnish cemetery art. The underlying idea behind my project is not to show the graves оr resting places of the famous or important people (as it is often done by others). My aim is to capture the details that are specific and particular, compared to other cultures, to Finnish cemetery art. These details, in my opinion, often go unnoticed.
Why the cemetery?
People often ask me: why did I choose to take pictures in the cemetery? How did I get this idea? My answer is always: why not? On the one hand, we rarely think of cemetery as a place (or source) that contains interesting works of art, while, on the other hand, there is still a lack of cross-cultural comparisons (both in research and popular culture) between the symbolic representation of death and life in cemetery art. As a foreigner in Finland, also as someone who did some photographing in American cemeteries in the U.S.A., I see striking cultural differences and they challenge my curiosity. As Internet does not have that much information on cemetery art, I believe, that my project would benefit those who are like-minded and interested in cemetery art, as well as those, who might be planning a trip to Helsinki as tourists and would like to explore some of it beforehand.