History of Nykyaika

Nykyaika is an open meeting space for all friends of photography

Located on Kauppakatu, Photographic Centre Nykyaika has a public reference library and two gallery spaces, one on street level and one downstairs. Visitors are free to see the exhibitions and peruse the library free of charge. Nykyaika also hosts additional monthly events related to the exhibitions, as well as artist meets, lectures and workshops.

The photographic centre is maintained by a nonprofit association whose goal is to advance and promote photographic art and encourage interaction.

In 2015 Nykyaika was in a state of flux. Throughout the spring of 2015 Nykyaika produced the exhibition program of a regional photographic centre at Kangasala-talo, until we found a space fit for gallery work right in the centre of Tampere. A circle was closed when after decades, we returned to Kauppakatu to upheld exhibitions and events. The grand opening of the new space was celebrated on November 6th of 2015. The symbolic ribbon was cut by the director of the Finnish Arts Promotion Centre, Minna Sirnö, whose speech you can download here (only in Finnish): Avajaispuhe 6.11.2015 Minna Sirnö

The basement was renovated to facilitate another exhibition floor as the year changed from 2015 to 2016. The opening speech of the basement gallery was held by the deputy mayer of Tampere City Services for Education and Life Quality, Anna-Kaisa Heinämäki, on the 8th of January, 2016.

From there has started a new chapter in the association's history. Welcome along to follow how our story continues - welcome to Nykyaika! If you want to know what happened before this, you'll find the main points from our 30-year retrospective below.

A brief history - 1982-2012 - 30 years

ensimmäinen näyttely_kuva4 Nuutinen

Tampere-born Photographic Centre Nykyaika got its start in December of 1982, when Gallery Nykyaika was started. It brought together young artists who had the burning desire to renew the state of the visual arts in Tampere. At first the gallery was kept active by a group by the name of Työryhmä Arkitaide ("Everyday Arts Work Group"), that consisted of artists from different fields: Petri Nuutinen, Helge Riskula, Mikko Pekari, Untamo Eerola, Anneli Kokko, Pirjo Pulkkinen, Peter Bashmakov, Stan Shingler, Taina Shingler, Tuula Lehtinen ja Timo Lehtinen.

The goal of Gallery Nykyaika was to create exhibition opportunities to young artists and react quickly to different initiatives and cooperation suggestions. This is a principle that has guided our way through our 30-year-long history.

The first exhibition at Nykyaika All vill ha barn, ingen vill ha ungdom ("All will have children, none will have youth") depicted Nordic youth culture. It showcased photographers from all Nordic countries, with Finland being represented by Ari Hietala and Jan Kaila with their series of photographs.

At the beginning of the 80's, getting funding for new cultural activities was difficult. Nykyaika was formed with the support of singular photographers from Tampere. Among them were Matti J. Kaleva, Matti Selänne, Manu Honkonen, Jouko Järvinen ja Kimmo Torkkeli. The space for the gallery was secured through a building company with the help of a culture-friendly employee, Timo Ruottinen - who has since become a musician and producer - at Suvantokatu 1 in Ratina, from the bottom level of new apartment buildings.

When the gallery had become active, the city of Tampere and the Häme County Art Committee supported Nykyaika with small grants. However, the space at Suvantokatu was sold, and the gallery - that had rented the space - was closed. Nykyaika reopened at a new location, Kauppakatu 10, behind YO-talo. They shared the space with book café Into. This gallery space held many wonderful exhibitions, including those of Christer Strömholm and Josef Sudek.

At its beginning Gallery Nykyaika was focused broadly on all forms of visual arts, but fairly quickly it focused on the area of photographic art. At the beginning of the 1980's photography wasn't considered "true" art in Finland, so it was hard to get it exhibited in art museums or galleries.

Aiming to raise appreciation for the art of photography

Photographic expression developed by leaps and bounds in the 80's, and Nykyaika was a part of this development, doing its part to help the rise of Finnish photography. Freer expression rose to prominence along documentary photography. One of the guiding lines in Nykyaika's 30-year journey has been to examine and expand photography's relationship with reality.

In a few years, Gallery Nykyaika's work steadied, and to ensure the continuity of funding the work group formed into the formal Arkitaideyhdistys ("Association of Everyday Arts"). It was founded in a meeting on the 14th of January, 1986, from 6:30PM to 7:40PM at the Patruuna cabinet in restaurant Tiiliholvi. Present for the meeting were Petri Nuutinen, Pekka Lehtonen, Untamo Eerola, Asko Salminen, Janne Seppänen, Stan Shingler ja Veijo Vähätiitto. The association was officially marked in the association's registry on the 17th of March of that year. Later, in 1997, the name Arkitaideyhdistys ry was changed to Valokuvakeskus Nykyaika ry.

Although funding was fairly modest in the 80's, Nykyaika managed to form a steady place for itself in the cultural life of Tampere through group volunteer work, its members networking, and cooperating with e.g. Book Café Into. Many organizations have fallen due to vague accounting. Pekka Lehtonen, along with accountants Tuula Mittilä and Sirpa Mustonen, created a steady accounting system that served as a good foundation to build further operations on.

Nykyaika's exhibition work was international from the start. In 1987 began the history of the triennial that still takes place to this day: the event hosted then-unknown, young photographers Martin Parr, Paul Graham and Victor Burgin. The theme of the event was New British documentarianism. The wide-ranging exhibition was executed with the help of the Tampere Museum of Contemporary Art. The name of the event was Photography 87 Tampere and its exhibitions were shown in Haapanen's Villa in Pyynikki. A workshop hosted by Parr and Graham was also part of the event.

From gallery to regional photographic centre

In 1989, with group volunteer work, Nykyaika remodeled itself a new, bigger space in the centre of Tampere. During that time Gallery Nykyaika changed into Photographic Centre Nykyaika, that would serve as the regional photographic centre of Pirkanmaa. The opening ribbon was cut by minister Kaarina Suonio and media artists Ami Hyvärinen started as executive director.

The 100+ square meters of adaptable space at the cotton factory was a fine space for a photographic centre. In addition to exhibitions we hosted courses, seminars and workshops. However, following the recession of the 90's, the funding for Finnish photographic centres was unable to rise to a sufficient level for a long time, and thus working on as large a scale as planned wasn't possible.

Fairly soon the space on Pellavatehtaankatu were also put under threat of demolition and the photographic centre decided to work together with Pirkanmaa Film Centre, who had also recently been put out of a home.

In 1992 the photographic and film centres opened their joined space in the centre of Tampere, in an old factory called Kehräsaari. In addition to modest photographic centre work Kehräsaari also hosted a number of photography and media art exhibitions. Audiences for film and photographic art got their full culture fix in one go: the gallery hosted 10-12 exhibitions per year - and even more in their lobby!

In the Kehräsaari years, Nykyaika hosted a number of internationally renowned photographers; Sally Mann, Thomas Ruff, Larry Clark, Tuija Lindström and Wim Wenders being among them.

Among the Finnish photographers and media artists that were showcased in Kehräsaari, we may mention Marja Pirilä, Seppo Renvall, Magnus Scharmanoff, Juha Suonpää, Stefan Bremer, Rita Jokiranta, Tuomo Manninen, Esko Männikkö, Ville Lenkkeri, Pink Twins, Stig Baumgartner, Tanja Koponen, Erkka Nissinen, Pekka Elomaa, Tiina Itkonen and Elina Saloranta.

The guiding principle for Nykyaika's work has always been to showcase new, young artists alongside known ones. The last exhibition in Kehräsaari was a retrospective for life-long photojournalist, Martti Brantd, in March of 2005.

A more international Tampere-based photo festival

In 1993, Antti Haapio was appointed as chairman of the board of the association. He had been a part of Nykyaika since its days on Pellavatehtaankatu. In the same year Nykyaika held its third international photography event, Photography 93 Tampere. Ulrich Haas-Pursiainen, who had just moved to Finland to marry a Finn, was called to curate it. From here began a collaboration that in 1999 would be fine-tuned into the Backlight photography triennial. Haas-Pursiainen created a strong and deep European feel to Backlight events.

With its collaborators, Nykyaika managed to get the events funded via the EU's cultural programs in 1999, 2002, 2005 and 2008, and thus created one of Finland's - and Europe's - most vital photographic events. In 2002 and 2005 Harri Laakso, then a county artist of photography, was part of creating the event. Backlight 05 was at the time of its production the largest photographic art event ever held in the Nordic countries.

All in all, in the nine events between 1987 and 2011 they have showcased 285 different artists from 30 countries from around the world. The themes of the Nykyaika photographic events have been as follows:

Photography 87 Tampere - New British documentary
Photography 90 Tampere - East and West (The Soviet Union vs. USA)
Photography 93 Tampere - Sanctity and morals in photography
Photography 96 Tampere - Finnish documentary
Backlight 99 – Documents and Identities – Dokumentti ja identiteetti
Backlight 02 – Critical Authenticity – Kriittinen autenttisuus
Backlight 05 – Untouchable Things – Koskettava tavoittamaton
Backlight 08 – Tickle Attack – Huumori, parodia, ironia
Backlight 11 – Migration and Nomadic Living in 21st Century – Siirtolaisuus ja liikkuva elämäntapa

The Backlight Photo Festival examines societal phenomena in a way that strays from mainstream conceptions. The festival aims to find a new and challenging point of view to examine these phenomena. In addition to photography, the event showcases media art.

The group volunteer spirit of the members & collaboration of cultural associations

Nykyaika on alusta asti kerännyt yhteen valokuvaentusiasteja kaikilta elämän aloilta, ja heidän mittava talkootyönsä vuosien mittaan on kehittänyt Valokuvakeskus Nykyajan nykyiseen muotoonsa. Talkootyötä ovat yhdistyksen puheenjohtajien Nuutisen ja Haapion lisäksi tehneet monet jäsenet vuosien varrella, kuten Marja Pirilä, Tuula Alajoki, Ulrich Haas-Pursiainen, Harri Lundelin, Pekka Lehtonen, Juha Suonpää, Ari Ijäs, Hannu Vanhanen ja Harri Laakso.

Nykyaika has never wanted to cut itself off from the rest of the world in its own ivory tower, but instead has been always open to collaborative suggestions from all sources. With its work, the photographic centre has gotten other cultural operators in Tampere to showcase photography in their exhibitions. These days photography is a fully fledged art form, and is often in the centre of contemporary art and society.

Collaboration with the museums of Tampere

At the end of the 90's, the director of the Museum Work of Tampere, Toimi Jaatinen, visited Haapio to see if Vapriikki and Nykyaika might collaborate with organizing photo exhibitions for a large audience, à la the summer exhibitions of the Victor Barsokevitsch photographic centre in Kuopio. Anything exactly like that was never produced, but for over five years the collaboration between Vapriikki and Nykyaika was very fruitful, and it still shows not only in the operations of Vapriikki and Nykyaika, but in Tampere-based and Finnish photography culture as a whole.

The first collaborative effort was the Light Bearers 2 exhibition in Koskisali in 2000. Light Bearers 1 had been hosted by Sirpa Joenniemi in 1990 in Heinonen's Villa, in collaboration with The Tampere Museum of Contemporary Art. Light Bearers 1 and 2 were sort of regional exhibitions of photographic art in Pirkanmaa. In 1995 Nykyaika had held the only regional photographic art exhibition of Häme County. Its opening day had been on Mother's Day, May 14th, 1995 in Tampere-talo. Today, photo artists participate in the Pirkanmaa Triennial.

Another collaboration with Vapriikki was the Theatre of Manners exhibition by American artist Tina Barney in 2000. MiMe, that showcased Japanese photography, was exhibited in 2001, as well as Africa Inside, which showcased African photography. Vapriikki has also hosted Backlight in 2002, 2005 and 2008.

Bettina Flitner's European Women exhibition Nykyaika held along with Tampere Art Museum in 2005. In addition to the two floors of the museum, photos were also shown on the outer walls of the museum building. In 2005 the Backlight exhibits were also shown in Tampere Art Museum and Sara Hildén Museum, and in 2011, an exhibition showcasing Russian photography as part of the Backlight Photo Festival, was showcased in Tampere Art Museum.

The photo exhibitions held in collaboration with Vapriikki and Tampere Art Museum are the only ones of their scale in Finland.

The TR1 Art hall

At the beginning of the century, the space in Kehräsaari became too small for big works of newer photo art. Kehräsaari had been modified to better the space, but nothing would help. So when a new art space was being founded in Tampere, Nykyaika was actively involved. In 2005 Photographic Centre Nykyaika moved to the TR1 Art hall in the Finlayson area, where it was possible to execute small as well as larger than life exhibitions. At the TR1 Art hall Nykyaika worked in collaboration with a lot of different cultural operators in Tampere. The fruits of these collaborations have been wide-ranging exhibitions that expand beyond the limits of tools of expression.

The better known exhibits at the TR1 Art hall include Marilyn (2006) and The Most Wonderful Girl in the World by Miina Savolainen (2010-2011). Traditional photography at TR1 was showcased through the works of Pentti Sammallahti (2005) and Ismo Hölttö (2006). In 2009 Nykyaika hosted the notable exhibition Hungarian masters: Brassaï, Robert Capa, Andre Kertesz, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Martin Munkacsi. TR1 hosted Backlight 2005, 2008 and 2011.

In the loft space of the TR1 Art hall Nykyaika held small-scale exhibitions. In the last few years Nykyaika has also showcased photo art in public spaces and exhibition spaces all over Pirkanmaa.

Irma Puttonen has worked as executive director of Photographic Centre Nykyaika since 2008. Along with exhibitions, other activities have been organized such that members of the association may create and execute their ideas in the field of photographic and media arts and get support and help from the executive director as well as the chairperson.

The near future of Nykyaika

Photographic Centre Nykyaika has upheld photography as an art form and had an open mind when considering artists who utilize photography in their work. In the last few years the member count of the association has been on a steady rise. Along with photographers, many people with visual arts degrees have joined the association. In the future Nykyaika will continue its collaboration with other cultural operators at TR1, while also aiming to create and financially enable consistent small-scale photo exhibitions. Backlight Photo Festival aims to be more and more of a Tampere-based photo event. Photographic centre activities of different forms will be held and people in the Pirkanmaa region who are interested in photography and culture will be served.

In Tampere, November 6th 2012

Antti Haapio, chairperson
Irma Puttonen, executive director

Afterword: Nykyaika operated from 2005 to 2015 at the TR1 Art hall, which was closed on January 4th of 2015 as part of budget cuts of Tampere city. Nykyaika held its office in TR1's office floor until the end of August 2015 while organizing exhibitions elsewhere and searching for a new gallery space.