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Helsinki Photo Festival 2020 : Florence Montmare


Helsinki Photo Festival 2020 introduces a Swedish-American visual artist Florence Montmare with her homage to Ingmar Bergman, Scenes from an Island. The curated exhibition is set up in the summer yard of The National Museum of Finland and can be visited daily from 6am-9pm until September, 30th 2020.
“No man is an island, entire of itself,

Every man is a piece of the continent,

a part of the main.”

— Meditation XVII by John Donne

The overarching theme of Scenes from an Island is the human condition of displacement and transience and elemental conditions of landscape where land meets water. This is played out against Ingmar Bergman’s mise-en-scène, the barren cinematic landscape on the remote island of Fårö, Sweden. There, natural elements are stripped down and laid bare, allowing a contemplation of the rocks and water to function as a mirror, and in reflection, you are able to see an essence of yourself. This work resonates even more now because of the circumstances that we have found ourselves in. Donne’s poem speaks about the idea of non-separation and connection. What started as a search for an authentic home through the relation to nature as a source, became a practice of alignment and being in presence. In a society where neutrality, secularism and individualism rules, the relationship to nature is almost religious as a way of finding connection. It is a utopian dream to coexist in harmony with nature, a relationship that is both contradictory and exclusive.

At first it was only the landscape that I photographed. With time I populated the images, staging scenarios in various locations. The images are interiors and exteriors; landscape sans figures and landscape with figures transitioning through. Bodies in motion contrasted to the desolate topography and its dramaturgy, mountains that have eroded, the earth, the water and the air. A contemplation on transience; body, movement and the surrounding elements. Being able to see a complete unbroken horizon is important for psychological balance. The barren shores, overlooking a horizon, are broken only by a spire of an old church, windmills and some pine groves. Working with an inconspicuous subdued palette, I intentionally break up the horizon, to throw off the spatial perspective and balance, creating a sense of disorientation. Making this work comes from a desire to pause and contemplate, away from distraction and convenience. I peel away layers to get to the elemental; and then reconstruct the frame. As we participate in humanity, art and relations to nature have the capacity to heal. Art has the power to transcend and transform. I hope this can open up a space for people to find a breathing space and personal interpretations. This is an excerpt from my diary when I was a resident artist at the Bergman Estate in 2015.


About the artist
Most of Florence Montmare’s work is process based and interdisciplinary – from concept and discussions, to production and execution.

Returning to similar subjects, narrating them in different ways — She peels off layers, touching upon visceral aspects of life — whether it is in a film, a photograph, a performance or an installation.

Identity, displacement and transience are themes that interest her. The work is usually site specific where Montmare stages different scenarios, in which the body’s presence and absence is a metaphor for impermanence and transience. Her approach is with a sense of expanded time, allowing the viewer to contemplate a deeper meaning buried within the language. The process is like meditating which Montmare has practiced for many years. Initially there is an influx of thoughts flowing through the mind’s eye, before purifying the mind and finding stillness. Here she starts with the empty space before the landscape fills up with scenes and rituals and characters begin to enter. Montmare is interested in exploring a realm of images and fragmented allegorical tales, without the necessity of an obvious narrative, she hopes they will function as a catalyst for the viewer’s personal fantasies.

More about the artists, visit her website


“Helsinki Photo Festival continues to celebrate excellence in contemporary photography. The Festival’s admirable determination to connect curators, artists and photography enthusiasts in Helsinki despite the current difficulties and restrictions imposed by Covid-19 crisis is truly impressive. I came to the process of selection with the strong belief that the very best photography always has something important to say – no matter how apparently abstract or ‘difficult’ the subject matter. I am pleased to say that I found this quality again and again in the work that I reviewed. I was happy to be able to see great variation of professional and photo enthusiasts’ works alike and discover new talents who I hope to meet in due course. There were some real treats to anticipate here. I look forward to seeing the exhibitions and wish the organisers all the best wishes for their great effort in this challenging time.”  Fariba Farshad, Curator & Founder, Candlestar / Photo London

Despite the growing wave of event cancellations, affecting the cultural scene all over the world, the Helphoto team is proud to present to the public a third edition of their international visual arts event, Helsinki Photo Festival 2020. The festival, organized from July 7th to September 30th, will attract photo enthusiasts to exhibitions of 58 international and Nordic photographers spread all over the City of Helsinki. The theme for the festival is Trust, a vital cornerstone for every society given the challenging times the world has been facing throughout 2020.


Helsinki Photo Festival 2020

July 7 – September 30, 2020

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