“We tremble at the feelings we experience as our sense of wholeness is reorganized by what we see.” —Emmet Gowin
The Finnish-born photographer Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen is once again garnering the attention she merits. Experiencing something of a renaissance for her “Byker” series beginning in the late ’60s (currently on view at L. Parker Stephenson Photographs in New York until May 11), it’s exciting to see Konttinen reaching new audiences.
Konttinen’s images, taken within the communities of Newcastle upon Tyne, seek to capture the humor and dignity of working-class Geordie culture. Like other poor neighborhoods in the north of England, the city saw homes devastated by developers keen to tear down the “slums” and replace them with architectural and planning fantasies that bore no connection to the people actually living there. Konttinen and friends, as part of the the still extant Amber Collective, lived in Byker from 1969-76 and documented the impact over a ten year period until 1980. These photographs should, therefore, be understood for their political and social undertones.
Aside from their didactic message, Konttinen’s images possess the power of intimacy and connection. The wonderful compositions and tonal ranges add to their beauty; however, it is the emotive energy in the images that sets them apart. I, for one, feel the love. —Lane Nevares