Happy/Brooklyn 1988-93 by Nina Korhonen

Or the tribulations of a Finnish girl in New York …

Apart from the Native Americans, the United States are almost exclusively inhabited by descendants of migrants. The waves followed one another according to the European temporalities (starvation, religious reforms …), the Finnish community in New York was mainly established during the first half of the 20th century, settling notably in Brooklyn.

In 1988, Nina Korhonen was studying photography in Stockholm, when she begin visiting her grandmother in New York. She wants to document the history of this community ; she takes pictures, speak with people, listen to their stories with empathy, to understand a part of the story she comes from.

We are dealing here with a slow photography, close to the subjects. Nina lives among this community ; on weekends she goes to Coney Island which becomes, at the same time a public space, an agora and a playground. People walk there, meet there, or show up, sometimes in poses that could be ridiculous if they were not there to remind us that a society is permanently a game of seduction in our relationship to others.

There is also a lot of privacy in this photographic work, when the night comes, the lights fade and the interiors light up, whether in a kitchen or when the sound of The Laiho Brothers with their accordions starts to be heard in the ballroom. Choreography at the scale of a neighborhood in which everyone will find his place. However, Nina does not forget the decor in which the scene is played, the subway, the street, the water, the beach, this impression of déjà vu cinematographic. We can easily imagine Matti Pellonpää and Kati Outinen, after having emigrated to the United States, finding themselves, at the sound of the accordion, in a dialogue straight out of a Kaurismäki film. We also think of this other story of Hungarian migrants in “Stranger than paradise” by Jim Jarmusch. But we also find the fascination for people, caught in the simplicity, even the naivety of their daily life which impregnated “The Americans” by Robert Frank.

Nina Korhonen work is refreshing in a photographic world that has now moved, sometimes with excess, into a conceptual environment. Here we just share moments of daily life, which tell a story written in the past, but strongly rooted in the present and which leaves us with the impression of having spent a few days with friends… and back again, the tune of the accordion that still resonates in our head.

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Night falls on Brooklyn now. Tomorrow, if the weather is nice, we will go to the beach…

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Happy/Brooklyn 1988-93, softcover published by Tira Books, a new Swedish publishing house, in 2019. 19,5 x 26 cm. 128 pages. Print run 700 copies.

More info :

The Facebook page of Tira Books : https://www.facebook.com/pg/Tira-books-642051976239560

The site of Nina Korhonen : http://www.ninakorhonen.com/

Another review in French by Fabien Ribery : https://lintervalle.blog/2019/05/22/brooklyn-a-largentique-par-nina-korhonen-photographe/

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Look I’m wearing all the colours, by Rikard Österlund

Rikard was born in Sweden and settled in England years ago. In 2005, he met Zara and they’ve been living together until now. This is the story that Rikard Österlund tells us in this very touching book.

But wait, another point of importance in this story, is that Zara suffers from fibromyalgia, hypermobility syndrome, obsessive compulsive disorder and anxiety. This disease is difficult to diagnose, but most importantly, the only treatment is to manage the effects of the disease. When affected, you really have to live with it and Rikard and Zara share this together since the beginning of their relationship. The fact that this disease was known from the beginning of their relationship makes the story more touching and, as Rikard says, they have learnt to live this like a third person in our relationship.

One of the great qualities of this book is that it opens the doors to the intimacy of the couple. But here, the term intimacy has to be read in term of love, not in terme of voyeurism, a bit like if Rikard was afraid to see disappear all these shared moments. The context is set in the preamble of the book, the title is also explained, since it is a sentence that Zara sometimes pronounces when entering the office of Rikard : Look I’m wearing all the colours. The use of colour in the book is not neutral, the story of the couple is an explosion of colours, whether shared moments or as Zara is dressed. But the book is also punctuated with black and white photographs, and it tells a kind of parallel history, like the presence of the unconscious, as for magnified moments, imprecise memories that in the remnant of moments of pain testify a need for the spirit to escape, to wander, to regain strength.

As a result, we quickly feel a great empathy for Zara and Rikard. This form of intimacy does not hide the reality of everyday life, despite the explosion of colors, difficult moments emerge between pages of joy. The suffering of one becomes that of the other and, over this reading, it is also our own.

The book is a long poem dedicated to Zara and its layout uses lots of metaphors, it opens on a blue sky on which clouds are appearing, themselves tainted with warm colors, then, we discover a swan, alone, as in the looking for his partner (we know that swans can stay in couples all their lives), and then, Zara’s face appears behind a window fogged, imprecise and immaterial before seeming to wake up on the next page.

Are we diving into a dream or are we coming out of it? Much more than a book on Zara, this book is a book about Rikard’s love for Zara, whom he compares to a Madonna on a double page with a sweet and tender portrait on the left and a statue on the right. He shows us all his feelings, from doubts to joy or pain, like on this double page with on one side a hospital corridor (no way out) and on the opposite page the shadow profile of Rikard interpreted as we can assume as doubts and fears for the future.

The book ends softly with the beautiful picture of Zara, finally appeased and full of hope, who hands him a flower picked in the garden nearby, and seems to say : do not worry, everything will be fine! And so, we are also a little convinced that, yes, everything will be fine!

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Hardcover book selfpublished in 2018. 120 pages with 90 colour and black and white photographs. Edition of 500 copies.

More info : https://www.rikard.co.uk/allthecolours