Leevi Toija - Helsinki
For foreign humans (as I like to call people) Helsinki might be a city they’ve never heard of, and probably sounds like one of those “small villages” with no major landmarks or anything to see or experience. And I’m not here to tell you about Finnish history or landmarks, but what I am here to tell and show you is what kind of a life Helsingers (just made that out of New Yorkers) and people in the suburbs are living. And that’s what my photographs are here for.
Helsinki has many parts that have different reputations and various kinds of people living in them. The architecture is diverse in each part of Helsinki. For example there is a small district in eastern Helsinki (Merihaka) that reminds me of the Soviet Union with big grey concrete buildings (Finland once was a part of the Soviet Union). But of course Helsinki has it’s own architecture which is elegant and unique. People who are keen on architecture will find central Helsinki to have many notable buildings.
For me there is no “best” place in Helsinki. But there are lot of areas that I like to hang around. I don’t have a favourite place because it really depends on my mood where I like to be. Sometimes I like to be in the suburbs to see and photograph exceptional people, but sometimes I prefer to stay in downtown Helsinki. The reason I usually pick to be in the boroughs and suburbs is because it’s nothing like the centre of Helsinki. There is so much weird stuff going on and it will never leave you dry. You always want to go back. When after many times the inner city will eventually become tiresome.
Mainly my favourite boroughs of Helsinki are located at the eastern part of the city, Kallio for example. It is primarily populated by middle aged people and students. There is nothing really to see expect for a big church. And of course many fascinating people. But if you want to play it safe you can always choose downtown.
From my point of view, people in Helsinki are not alike other people around the world, even the people in Scandinavian countries are not similar to the people of Helsinki. Finnish people keep to themselves and might seem reserved and maybe from the eyes of a foreigner, ignorant. However this is not done on purpose, and Finnish people acknowledge that they are like that. When I go and ask people if I can take their photo, they probably are wondering: how dare they ask me, a stranger, something like that!
After my exchange year in the U.S and being in NYC I realised how interesting Helsinki is to photograph even though it does not have as many odd things going on as NYC has. But for me, Helsinki has many strange things to share. Trust me, you’ll see.
Words and images by Leevi Toija