A Model for International Co-operation in Photography
Working with Finnish photographers has been an amazing experience for me:nine years of co-operation have made us dear friends, closer than I ever thought possible. This friendship has also led to great achievements. In this regard, I would like to express my gratitude to Kirmo Wilen, Hannele Fors, Markku Saiha and Kalervo Ojutkangas, all my dear Finnish friends.
The first time we met Finnish photographers was in 2007. They were the art representatives of the Province of Oulu, Finland in a cultural exchange project between Hainan and Oulu.Photography was one part of that project.At first I was afraid that because of the language barrier there would not be much point in this part of the project, but later I was proved to be wrong. With the co-operation and help from the Hainan Foreign Affair Office and some other people, a workshop named Under the Same Sun was held both in Hainan and later in Oulu. Arno Rafael Minkkinen hosted a workshop in Hainan and also gave a lecture to an audience of both Finnish and Chinese photographers. After that, some Hainan photographers were invited to Finland to display a photo exhibition, and my part in Finland was to give a lecture on documentary photography. The project struck up a friendship between the photographers of Hainan and Finland, and a bridge to a mutual cultural exchange was set up.
The Finnish photographers’experiences in Hainan sparked off their interest, and they were amazed by the rapidity of the changes in China. They soon felt it to be their duty to record the change in Hainan, both in the downtown city of Haikou and in the countryside. Of these two, they preferred the latter,because it was there that the changes were taking place at the very moment. For them Hainan soon became a placethatthey would miss, a place that they wanted to exploremore. Finally, in the coastal town of Yanfeng,more than a 12-hour flight from their home,they founda place that was a suitable countryside base for their project of photographing the changes in China and recording the daily life therein.
For the first couple of weeks of their visit the Finnswere somewhat alone in the village. Very few villagers spoke English while they did not speak Chinese or the Hainan dialect at all.However, after repeated visitsin the village they soon established a trust with the local villagers. There they even found themselves a Chinese granny called LiuJinmei. I was astonished and touched by their devotion to the villages, by their professionalism in photography and by their sincere feelings, which all photographers should take an example of.
The great changes that have taken place in the Hainan countryside are revealed in the thousands of photographs of the villagers’ daily life and their surroundings in Yanfeng town: These photographs were taken by the Finnish photographers in the course of the past nine years.
In 2013, with the help ofthe Hainan Documentary Photography Association and other government bodies, theFinnish photographers’ exhibition“People in Time” was successfully held in Haikou, the capital city of Hainan andin Sanya, the famous resort city. Last year, their photography works were also shown in many big photography exhibitions held in mainland China, such as Pingyao International Photography Festival, which has gained great fame both home and aboard, Dali International Photography Exhibition and Lishui International Photography Biennial.
In addition to the above, the Finnish photographers have won many awards and prizes in China for their excellent photography works.
The Hainan Documentary Photography Association invited the Finns as photography consultants, and they have given many lecturesin the course of the past nine years. Their storiesare well told and the have been widely spread in different media: some of them have appeared on national level, such as China Daily newspaper, China Watchsupplement of The Washington Post, and some have been covered in the Chinese national photography publications.
As the co-operation stretched to the other side of the planet, the exhibitionpresenting the photography works on Hainan of both the Finnish and Hainan photographers was toured across Finland.
The co-operation between the photographers of Finland and China (especially those in Hainan)has promoted the cultural exchange between the two countries.
I am happy for the photographers that the book on their Hainan project is going to be published soon. With its three different language versions in Chinese, English and Finnish as well as its amazing pictures, I hope that the readers will enjoy their Hainan story as much as we do - and learn something from it.
No matter how time flies, I believe that our friendship will last forever, and the co-operation will be extended to new levels.