Photo: Matti Koivumäki: Vallilantie 17, 1975. The Finnish Museum of Photography.
Matti Koivumäki: Puu-Vallila
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the building stock of Helsinki was modernised, as old buildings were frantically torn down to give way to new ones. The houses that had been built in the early part of the century were beginning to age and no longer matched the housing ideals of the time. For a period of two years, the photographer Matti Koivumäki (born 1950) spent time exploring his childhood home district and documented the Puu-Vallila area of wooden buildings, which was threatened with being condemned due to changes in town planning.
During his long-term photography project, Koivumäki got to know the people in the area and was let into their homes. The photographs convey intergenerational friendship, everyday toil, doing things together, and children playing and growing up. Defending the lifestyle cherished by Vallila residents became important to Koivumäki. The desire to influence the fate of their home district paid off: due to the active residents’ movement, the town plan to condemn the area was not realised. Instead, the renovation of the building stock began to gain support. The unique Puu-Vallila environment became a protected area in the late 1970s, and the buildings were renovated in the early 1980s.
The 1970s was a decade of political photography. Several photographers offered critical commentary on contentious issues related to Finnish society. Koivumäki began his studies in photography at the University of Art and Design Helsinki in 1973. In addition to his Puu-Vallila photography series, he has documented the sprawl of Helsinki, demonstrations, events, and people’s everyday lives. The photographs in the exhibition are original gelatin silver prints from the years 1974–1976.