Was the Estonian-born J.J. Reinberg (1823–1896) Finland’s first photographic artist? Reinberg’s touching portraits and landscapes open up a view of the Turku of 150 years ago. In these old, salted-paper prints we feel the presence of a different time and society, when the gentry and bourgeoisie, dressed in their finery, posed for the camera for the first time. The photographs reveal their pride and their shyness, the emotions simmering beneath the surface of their dignity, excitement and relationships.
Reinberg’s preserved photographic material includes a large number of unfinished prints, which reveal a unique perspective on the photographer’s working processes in the 19th century. Signs of retouching, tinting, masking and other actions can been seen more clearly in the working prints than in the final versions that went to customers. In the early days, natural light was an absolute prerequisite for photography, and Reinberg photographed his clients, as his own advert said, “on all bright, rainless, mistless days”.
The original prints are on loan from the picture collections of Åbo Akademi University. The exhibition is part of the 100th anniversary of the collections , which is celebrated this year. These rare salted-paper prints belong to the first donation the collections received from Reinberg’s widow in 1911. This is the first time that they are being shown so extensively.
Because of the light sensitivity of the prints, the set of works on display will be changed at two-week intervals, with the five consecutive hangings showing a total of about 130 pictures. The gems of Reinberg’s production will be on display throughout the exhibition in new enlargements, allowing closer inspection of the details of the pictures.
Meet the Expert: Head of Manuscript and Picture Unit at Åbo Akademi University Library, Catherine af Hällström presents the exhibition Wed 2.11 at 18:00. Museum entrance fee.
Read Reinberg's biography here.
The Finnish Museum of Photography
The Cable Factory, Kaapeliaukio 3, staircase G, Helsinki