Exhibition Dates: February 15 - May 11, 2013
Reception with the Artist
Thursday, February 14, 2013
6:00 - 8:00 pm
The works of the Finnish-born photographer Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen are embedded with drama, truth, and grit. Dynamic compositions make times past stand still. Konttinen has lived and worked in Northeast England since the late 1960's and in 2011 Konnttinen and her collective, Amer's films, were recognized by UNESCO as being of "outstanding national value and importance to the United Kingdom" and added them to the UK Memory of the World Register.
This Byker exhibition marks the first time Konttinen's work has been shown in a commercial gallery. The works are powerful visions of a disappearing way of life- the disintegrating social fabric of the working class. We see the terraced town of Byker in stark light-Kendal Street, 1969 with its row-homes repeat roof lines as far as the eye can see. This image only begins to set the stage for the unfolding drama that ripples through generations of people who have belonged to a place. These are the last days of Byker, for it would soon be raised in the name of urban redevelopment. And in this contemporary sweeping out of a neighborhood we see tensions rise as youths quarrel in Young couple in a backyard, 1975; desperation and uncertainty skirt every corner of the tight but well organized home of William Neilson in St Lawrence's Square, 1971. The assemblage of broken things in Children with collected junk by Byker Bridge, 1971 comes together in what seems to be the gathered contents of a home; this image is bare, skeletal but shows resilience in the hearts and minds of the children portrayed. Their eyes are calm and watching, even heroic; we know from their collection of things that there is hope within them, there is some sense of normal or at least its shadow. Fear these children may have, but they dare not show it on their faces. Still, we wonder what drama plays out on this stage of theirs.
Konttinen continued to work in Byker from 1969 - 1976. Konttinen was close to the story and herself lived in Byker; she continued working- photographing and interviewing residents even after her own home was demolished. The work eventually came together in her first published book of photographs, Byker (1983). Konttinen would eventually return to Byker 30 years later to revisit the topic and new population. This second view of Byker was shot in color.
For more information on the exhibition, please visit, L. Parker Stephenson Photographs
Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen at the International Center for Photography
Also speaking as part of the ICP Photographers Lecture Series
Wednesday, February 13
More information at the ICP