Finland 100 years – I.K. Inha and his dream about an independent Finland

In year 2017 Finland will celebrate its 100 anniversary as an independent country, with many different happenings in Finland and abroad focusing on the internationally and nationally well known cultural personalities whom through their work helped the Russian Grand Duchy Finland in its strive for independency.

We like to celebrate the independence of Finland with an exhibition-tour showing the works of the pioneer of Finnish photography Into K. Inha, starting in Bad Grönbach, Allgäu, in September 2017 and ending in 2018 in Berlin. End-exhibition-date and other exhibitions and their dates are still to be decided.

Who was Into K. Inha?

Alongside famous Finnish artists like Jean Sibelius, Juhani Aho, and Eero Järnefelt, Inha was an integral part of the artistic movement what is nowadays called the golden age of Finnish art in the turn of the 20th century. Unlike the other artists he chose to work with a new medium, photography, instead of any of the classical ones. But still his main interest in arts and culture was very much rooted in the Finnish national epos Kalevala, written by Elias Lönnrot and published in 1835, and national romanticism. Further more Inha worked as a journalist domestic and abroad for a newspaper, translator and writer in the popular science genre and of schoolbooks.

Like all of the other big Finnish artists at that time Inha also travelled abroad to studie, but he did not go to Paris, Berlin or London, he went to Grönbach in Germany to studie photography (today Bad Grönbach).

The work that made Inha “the national photographer” is a photo-book published in 1895-96 called “Suomi Kuvissa” in Finnish, “Finland i Bilder” in Swedish and “Finland in Pictures” in English. To make the photos for the book Inha travelled the same rout as Elias Lönnrot travelled when when he collected material for his epos Kalevala. Inha travelled in Karelia, the very east part of the Russian Grand Duchy Finland, documenting old traditions, way of living and landscapes that where slowly disappearing due to modernization and urbanization.

Through out of his career as a photographer he documented the whole of Finland, with focus on the national romantic landscape, traditions and way of living contra industrialism and urbanization.

His career as photographer and important person in the cultural establishment in Finland diminished in the beginning of the 20th century due mainly to ill health, but you can not overlook that this coincided whit the dawn of something revolutionizing in the arts, Modernism.

Why exhibit Inha to celebrate Finland 100 years?

As a photographer Inha documented a great deal of pre-independent Finland, made great looking photographies and was a technically and artistically a pioneer in photography in Finland. He was, like most of his other pre-modernsim-photography-colleagues, heavily influenced by the 18th and 19th century master-painters, and looking for the romantic, sublime and beautiful, but nevertheless  have his photos an important documentary value in showing Finland in the end of 20th century.

But the really big influence Inha achieved through publishing his photographs with text in books. This meant he had the means to spread his view on Finnish cultural identity in large scale. Ordinary people through out the whole of Finland could through his books take part in the national-romantic cultural awakening, without having to travel to Helsinki to see a painting of Eero Järnfelt or listen to a concert of Jean Sibelius. Still today Inhas photos are used in schoolbooks and regarded as part of the official image of the Finnish cultural identity.

Into K. Inha always stood in the shadow of his more famous artist or writer peers, but now in hindsight you can say that through his work as photographer, writer and journalist he had a great influence on how the Finnish cultural identity in the end was shaped. That is why we like to celebrate 100 years of Finnish independency by presenting the photos of Into K. Inha, and there is no better place to start the the exhibition-tour than in the place where he learned the crafts of photography, Bad Grönenbach.