The Blue Altai - J.G.Granö as a photographer in Siberia 1902-1916
15 March 2002 - 9 June 2002






The Blue Altai
J.G.Granö as a photographer in Siberia 1902-1916

The exhibition entitled The Blue Altai that opens at Helsinki City Art Museum in Meilahti on 15.3.2002 features photographs taken by the Finnish scientist and explorer Johannes Gabriel Granö (1882-1956) in Central Asia over the period 1902-1916. Granö later became professor of geography at the universities of Tartu, Turku and Helsinki, and his achievements as a pioneer of photography in Finland have tended up to now to be overshadowed by his academic career. The Blue Altai introduces us above all to Granö the artist, a master of landscapes, which he approached with a unique blend of science and art.

J.G. Granö was a skilful portrayer of space and movement, whose photographs impress us with their concreteness and immediacy. He took the photographs exhibited here in connection with his fieldwork in the Altai Mountains of Central Asia, among colonies of Finnish settlers in Siberia, on the steppes of Western Siberia and in Mongolia, particularly with the purpose of studying the inhabitants of these areas. His expeditions involved covering thousands of kilometres on foot, on horseback and by ox-cart. Granö also had a delayed shutter device on his camera, so that he could appear in the pictures himself, and his perspectives varied from small personal groups and the recording of the often humorous details of everyday life on the expeditions to the majestic landscapes of the Altai, the endless steppes, idyllic views of lakes, dark forests and mighty mountain ranges.

The name of the exhibition, The Blue Altai, refers to Granö’s own division of the region into the Black, Blue and White Altai. The Black Altai was a concrete environment of forests and undergrowth with a smell of the soil about it, an environment that could be perceived with all the senses, while the White Altai consisted of the snow-capped mountains that provided a permanent framework for every landscape and represented a striving for the heights, and the Blue Altai, with its sparkling lakes and misty valleys, was a distant land of sky and unattainable aspirations which Granö tried to capture with his photographs.

The exhibition has been arranged by Helsinki City Art Museum, the University of Art and Design and the Finnish Literature Society in conjunction with the Finnish Geographical Society and the Finno-Ugric Society, the organizations that had originally supported Granö’s expeditions, and the institutions for which he had worked, the Departments of Geography at the Universities of Turku and Helsinki. Assistance in the mounting of the exhibition has been provided by the Department of Fine Arts at the South Karelia Polytechnic, and the event has been sponsored by the Swedish Cultural Foundation in Finland and EPSON. The curator of the exhibition is Dr. Taneli Eskola of the University of Art and Design. It is also intended in conjunction with the opening of the exhibition to announce the donation of J.G.Granö’s photographic material to the Finnish Literature Society (for further details, please contact the Society’s information officer, Sirkka-Liisa Mettomäki, tel. +358-9-131 23237). A book to accompany the exhibition has been produced by the Finnish art publishers Musta Taide.

Further information: Curator of the Exhibition Taneli Eskola GSM +358-50-526 1288 / Assistant Curator Taru Tappola tel. +358-9-310 87021, GSM +358-50-341 6524 / press material Press Secretary Karri Buchert tel. +358-9-10 87004, GSM +358-50-304 6707.

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Lasipalatsin Mediakeskus Oy ©2001 5.3.2002


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