Michael Hoppen Gallery : Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen : Photos of Byker, 1969-1978

Barbara Merkley

Michael Hoppen Gallery provides their hottest exhibition (and initial in their new room!). The show focuses on Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen’s seminal series Byker.

Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen is a Finnish photographer who has lived and labored in Britain given that the 1960s. She was born in Finland in 1948 and arrived to research film in London in the 1960s, at the polytechnic in Regent Avenue. Together with some of her peers she launched the Amber Movie and Photography Collective, with the purpose of producing and collecting function to represent marginalised communities and their disappearing landscapes. The team resolved to move to Newcastle in 1969, to live and do the job in an industrial, doing the job-class neighborhood. “We felt that the doing work course had been not represented and if anything at all, were parodied relatively than provided a real voice,” Konttinen stated.

Konttinen arrived upon the place Byker by likelihood, and quickly fell in enjoy with it. This marked the commencing of her romantic relationship with the local local community there and the seminal photos that she made documenting community life in excess of the following seven decades. She was drawn to the laughter, the young children playing in the streets, the electricity. For her, this blue-collar district of Newcastle brimmed with everyday living as it teetered on the brink of a huge cultural shift, a interval when the shipyard marketplace collapsed and developers experienced eyes on the region for new housing strategies.

In her compelling hand-printed silver gelatin prints, row on row of terraced houses sit on the hillside, an old guy inspects his pigeons, a young girl applies make-up about the kitchen sink. Konttinen renders the individuals dwelling in this sparse, urban landscape with a playful and personal humanity. She chronicles considerably a lot more than the tradition of a solitary community in a person northern English town the photographs are evocative of a second in time.

“People were baffled by my option to live there. Not that many people experienced any plan where by Finland was, but if they did, they believed it this kind of a lovely thoroughly clean region, and why would I pick out to come to Byker?”

“Newcastle was a amazing visible area to be in,” she claims. Konttinen uncovered herself in Byker by coincidence, but shortly realised it was symbolic of the regeneration tasks occurring all over Britain at the time. “It was under no circumstances a slum, it was normally a pretty proud community established around generations, and they needed to remain that way. But the gap between demolition and the houses remaining designed was often many many years, and people today had to go out and never ever arrived back again.”

“One way or another I had grown to be element of my road, and the group. It had been my 1st individual household, and a authentic dwelling for me. As my neighbour Nancy factors out proudly: “When she 1st appear into our road, she could not convey to ‘hello’ from ‘tarra’, and now she speaks Finnish with a Geordie accent!””

This sentiment is reflected in Konttinen’s intimate portraits of the people she encountered, whose have confidence in she garnered as a result of her honesty and compassion.

The resulting human body of operate, “Byker”, from road photography to composed portraits in people’s properties, finds a resilient and very pleased human spirit amid the outwardly modest living spaces. When the developers lastly moved in, Konttinen moved on to other initiatives, but her pictures toured the environment as social documentary and sublime compositions. This series has been described as currently being of “outstanding nationwide worth to the United Kingdom” by UNESCO.

In 1983, Konttinen revealed a reserve, Byker, and put collectively an exhibition that toured the environment. She did not be expecting to ever return to Byker, but in 2004 she met anyone who ran an education project there, who inspired her to go again with her digital camera. Konttinen returned and shot new inhabitants of the area   this series of color images is compiled in her e-book “Byker Revisited”, a sequence of colour photographs  released in 2009.


Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen, Pictures of Byker, 1969-1978
25 February – 25 March 2022, by appointment only
Michael Hoppen Gallery
Device 10 Pall Mall Deposit,
124-128 Barlby Street, London W10 6BL



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