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Finland Calling - Aho & Soldan
06.05.2011 - 04.09.2011


Finland Calling - Aho&Soldan presents the lifework of Heikki Aho and Björn Soldan, two of the most influential constructors of the modern image of Finland. The company Aho&Soldan founded in 1925 by the pioneering duo of Finnish photography and film became the dynamo of the cinematic arts. Their entire production opened up new perspectives on Finnish concepts of beauty, the history of everyday life and the industrialisation processes in society. Curated by Tuula Karjalainen (PhD), the exhibition includes travel films from the series Finland Calling, as well as other films and a wide range of photographs.

Heikki Aho (1895-1961) and Björn Soldan (1902-1953) were pioneers of Finnish film and photography. They made hundreds of short and long travel and documentary films, including two key domestic feature films. Their photographs were published in books, magazines and travel brochures.

Heikki and Björn were the sons of the author Juhani Aho; they were both half brothers and cousins. Heikki's mother was Venny Soldan-Brofeldt, whose sister Tilly Soldan was Björn's mother. The brothers complemented each other perfectly. Their most important films and photographic works were the products of teamwork. Eino Mäkinen, whose work was presented in an exhibition at Ateneum in winter 2010, also worked at Aho&Soldan, the company established by the brothers in 1925. 

The photography and films of Aho and Soldan were strongly influenced by montage films and the experimental spirit of the Bauhaus. The brothers were part of the legendary ABISS group, whose members also included Vilho Setälä along with Hans Brükner and Heinrich Iffland, who moved to Finland from Germany. The group was inspired by modern industry, architecture, urban scenes and streets filled with the everyday buzz of traffic. An exhibition held by the group in 1930 was considered a turning point in Finnish photography.

Most of Aho&Soldan's films were commissioned works, including advertising and propaganda films. Their most important films were made to promote tourism and industry and distributed internationally by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. A silent version of their film Finland Calling was released in 1932. In 1936 and 1940 narrated compilations were released, praising Finland's natural beauty, sights and attractions, modern way of life and industry. These films were released in numerous languages, attracting visitors from abroad and encouraging travellers in Finland. Finland Calling was also screened at New York World's Fair in 1939 and 1940. In the 1940 release the happy days of domestic tourism and urban life end with the bombings of the Winter War. The brothers continued their work throughout the war, Heikki Aho with the Information Company of the Finnish Armed Forces and Björn Soldan on the home front.

This year marks the 150th anniversary of author Juhani Aho’s birth. During the jubilee year, three exhibitions related to the Aho family will be organized. The Finnish National Gallery Ateneum and Virka Gallery at City Hall will display photos and documentaries by Juhani Aho’s sons Heikki Aho and Björn Soldan, and WSOY Publishers will publish a related book entitled ‘’City Life’’ in May. Kunsthalle Helsinki will exhibit Heikki Aho’s daughter’s Claire Aho’s colourful fashion photos from the years 1950-1967. The jubilee year will culminate in a Peter von Bagh movie ”Splinters - A Century of an Artistic Family” which tells about the Aho artist family. The premiere will take place on 28.8.2011 at 19.00 in Bio Rex.

Flyer (pdf-file, 2,5 MB)