On the edge

Vesa Ranta

2015 - 2017

Reunalla (”On the Edge”) follows the last small villages in northern and eastern Finland emptying out in the 2010s.

Finland remained a rurally biased country for a long time. Now the urbanisation that began in the 1970s is emphatically apparent in the countryside. The change is still going on. Some of the villages are becoming empty for good.

Although the main flow leads to the cities, some people refuse to leave. The photo series takes us to the village of Hietajärvi on the Russian border, where rune singer Jussi Huovinen lived for 92 years until his death. When the old inhabitants die, it is inevitable that a part of culture that has blossomed in the countryside for hundreds of years will disappear forever.

The documentary project also follows the new inhabitants of secluded villages – people who look for the possibility to lead a meaningful life in the countryside even after it has become devoid of services. The most important service for families with kids is a school. The school in Sarakylä village is still running, although there are only 25 pupils remaining.

Reunalla was published in 2017 as a non-fiction documentary book with texts written by award-winning journalist Jenni Räinä. The book was awarded with the Botnia literature award. It was also nominated in the Book of the Year category at Bonnier’s journalist awards as well as for the Finlandia Award for non-fiction literature. The Finlandia Award is the most esteemed literary award in Finland.

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