- PhMuseum 2023 Photography Grant
When the Blackbirds Return
Dates2019 - 2020
- Location Salem
"When the Blackbirds Return" explores nostalgia and story-telling through carefully assembled, collage-like images. The method underlines the materiality of the photograph, and examines how memories, original or inherited ones, are visually constructed.
Artist Laura Konttinen sets on a journey to find a seemingly ordinary house that appears in her late grandmother’s photo album. The house was photographed in 1920 in the American town of Salem, where Konttinen’s grandmother was born to a Finnish immigrant family. The family returned to Finland soon after, and this strange little town became a dormant memory that was passed down in brief allusions and elusive anecdotes. Now, 100 years later, Laura Konttinen returns to explore the lush, mystical nostalgia that blossoms in Salem, a place infamous for its witch trials and still reveling in its history and myths.
The series is a collection of images from the journey. The route passes by abandoned cemeteries haunted by long-gone memories, meandering paths meant for getting lost and coincidentally the very same blackbirds that appear as messengers in a family legend. The story ends at the house where everything started a century before. Only it has become something else.
Laura Konttinen creates her works by constructing surrealistic maquettes for the camera by hand. Each image is assembled over several days or weeks with delicate craftsmanship using photographic prints, pages from vintage books, clay or even 3d printed polymer objects. Konttinen places each detail carefully in the shot and plays with angles and lighting to create an illusion of a wondrous world, where stories and memories flourish, unrestrained by the passing of time.
"Making of" videos:
In addition to the photographs, the project includes a 16-page booklet "Travelogue", an auto-fictional text that explores the journey as well as the artistic process.
The project was realised in the scope of Parallel Platform and with the support of Alfred Kordelin Foundation.
If selected for the Landskrona residency, I would like to work on my new project that combines mirrors with the collage/maquette method I have used in "When the Blackbirds Return". My new project is based on "spectrotypes" – portrait photographs from early 1900s that used mirrors set in certain angles to create an illusion of a person sitting with four of their identical twins. I am using the spectrotype method to create photographs of surreal landscapes.