Video interview with Claire Aho at The Photographers´ Gallery
Claire Aho’s career was defined by her pioneering editorial photography and innovative colour techniques.
In the early 1950s, at a highpoint in Finnish design culture, Aho (b. 1925, Finland) established a Helsinki-based photography studio under her own name. Her prolific output covered advertising, editorial, reportage and fashion for a range of commercial applications. She dealt with all aspects of the creative process, from casting models, set- making, styling and lighting to developing and printing her own images.
The photographs, spanning her career from 1950 to 1970, illustrate Aho’s trademark vibrancy and humour, through formally inventive compositions and scenarios constantly re-imagined.
Excerpts from the Inaugural remarks by Mr. Pekka Huhtaniemi, Ambassador of Finland
London, 18 April 2013
Dear Claire Aho, Distinguished Guests, Organizers of This Exhibition, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure and honour for me to open this important exhibition of Claire Aho’s works here at The Photographers’ Gallery. I wish to express my sincere thanks to all those who over many months have worked hard to make this project a reality. I know something about the amount of work exhibitions like this require, and (-) I have been able to follow the course of this project from its very beginning.
I myself belong to a generation which was – during the 1950s and 1960s, in particular – frequently exposed to Claire Aho’s photos without really being very well aware about the person – the artist, the professional – who was creating all those colourful and insightful pictures for all of us to see and admire.
When I now see her works in retrospective exhibitions, they always bring back very vivid memories from a by-gone, somehow “innocent” era which happened to coincide with my own youth and formative years. One cannot help becoming a bit nostalgic in front of many of Claire Aho’s photos.
My first more structured encounter with Claire Aho’s photographic art was her Helsinki 1968 –exhibition at Helsinki’s Town Hall in 2010. My own son-in-law Klaus happened to be the co-curator of that exhibition, which meant that I explored it with a certain particular interest. As the year 1968 was the year when I myself moved from the Finnish countryside to Helsinki for my university studies, Helsinki of those days has ever since had a special place in my own memory. In the art gallery of the Helsinki Town Hall, I was, indeed, struck by the sharp, warm, human and often humoristic eye with which she had documented the various everyday aspects of life in the Finnish capital in the late 1960s.
My later collaborative projects (-) have naturally further enhanced my interest in and understanding of the career and achievements of Claire Aho. I have also been happy to hear that my son-in-law has later on been involved with a number of other projects around Claire Aho’s works.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Claire Aho is considered a pioneer in Finnish color photography. She started to take photos already in the 1930s following in the footsteps of her father Heikki Aho, a renowned Finnish filmmaker. She was one of a very few women who were producing colour photos in the 1950s in Finland.
She worked as a photographer during an age when the advertising and photography community in Finland was, indeed, still heavily dominated by men.
Aho’s interests covered a wide range of topics, platforms and themes from magazine and editorial images to advertisements and fashion. This breadth of high-quality colour photography put her in high demand, making her one of the most prominent figures in her field at the time.
Observers have noted that the elements of movement and colour have really made her work iconic. The emphasis on movement may be explained by the fact that she, like her father, began her career as a documentary filmmaker.
A daring exploration of colour is thematic in Aho’s work, with a preference of contrasting colours side by side. She has told in interviews that for her photo shoots she often played music to help the models relax and in oder to create a fun and playful environment. Once the atmosphere was right, the next step obviously was to find a perfect timing for the shoot. Claire Aho was very skillful with her timings, as many of her works demonstrate.
In her commercial work, she wanted to portray women as strong and independent, with models posing in elegant and fashionable clothes. Aho sought to create a humorous and a positive mindset in each photo. The models believed she could take a good photo of them which enhanced their self-confidence and helped produce great pictures.
With these observations and sentiments I am pleased to proclaim this exhibition open and, once again, to thank The Photographers’ Gallery for bringing this project to a happy conclusion. I hope and trust that you all will enjoy the journey to Claire Aho’s world of images from the days which we have left behind us but which still remain very much alive thanks to her insightful pictures.