Capturing Clouds – the life and art of Matti Poutvaara

Matti Poutvaara: Suvi. Karjalan kannas. 1932.

Apr 29th to Oct 29th 2023

A self-taught photographer, Matti Poutvaara (1909–1989) is one of Finland’s most famous and prolific landscape and regional photographers. He honed his professional skills working as a non-commissioned officer specialising in photography and a technician for the Finnish Air Force in 1930–1945. Poutvaara, who became a freelance photography artist after the wars, reached the peak of his career at the turn of the 1940s and 1950s, and for this reason he has been especially described as a photographer of the post-war reconstruction era.

Poutvaara photographed Finnish regions from Karelia to Lapland and captured both natural landscapes and cultural environments with their buildings and people in his works. His most typical black-and-white photographs, which were rich in grey tones and often featured clouds as central aesthetic elements, frequently also had the softness of post-pictorialism. Matti Poutvaara became known to the general public mainly through his photo books published by WSOY, where he depicted, in addition to spectacular landscapes, the resettlement of migrants, working peasants, developing cities and emerging industry, as well as other subjects he found interesting from the point of view of domestic tourism. Poutvaara’s books have sold around half a million copies.

Capturing Clouds – the life and art of Matti Poutvaara presents the photographer’s long career from the mid-1920s to the 1980s. The works in the exhibition include works related to the Defence Forces’ photography activities, works produced in camera clubs, landscape and home region photography covering the whole of Finland, as well as photography-related publishing activities and the promotion of domestic tourism. At the same time, the exhibition creates a representative cross-section of almost all Finnish photography of the 20th century.