Ordinary Towns on Ordinary Days

Ordinary Towns on Ordinary Days is a photo series on European towns photographed using the aesthetics of war photography. I photograph people, landscapes and buildings with a preconceived attitude; I use the visual form of violence and war. The images may be taken on an ordinary, sleepy Sunday with people strolling in Kaivopuisto Park in Helsinki. When the viewer is being confronted by these images as a large mass on a wall, the atmosphere that they impart is like a violence-induced chaos in Baghdad. Closer inspection reveals the names of the towns and dates: Helsinki, 4 March 2007; Paris, 17 June 2007; Berlin, 4 July 2007 etc. Using simple pictorial choices I make ordinary situations appear chaotic. By using one of the media’s own visual narratives, the work questions this kind of representation strategy.

As I was making the very first photographs in my life I observed that I, through my own choices, was able to create a story in them. It is the photographer, not the object of the image, who creates the story in an image. This observation changed my relationship to documentary photography.

When I was viewing the photos from various crisis zones of the world by the young generation of Magnum photographers, I noticed how their black-and-white images, exposed with a Leica and loaded with Tri-X, copied their expression from the older generation of Magnum photographers. In this series I use this standardized form of war images.

The photographer chooses which story of the thousand possible ones s/he wants to tell. When selecting the final images of all the exposed ones, I believe that many photographers choose the images/stories, which have the most aesthetic appeal. This choice mostly serves the needs of the photographer, not those of the viewer.

How to look at other people? Are the eyes of a photographer operating in a crisis zone pre-programmed to see violence? Does s/he already have mental negatives of the images/situations/people that s/he intends to photograph? In my project the photographer’s eyes are pre-programmed, expecting to see violence.

Download Silomäki's Statement Ordinary Towns on Ordinary Days