Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen | Byker

Posted: July 3rd, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Film, Photography, Quotes

Girl on a Spacehopper 1971 © Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen

Girl on a Spacehopper 1971 © Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen

The girl on the Space Hopper! I took that in 1970. She flashed by me in a moment, bounded into a back lane and disappeared. I never found out who she was. Then, quite recently, the Space Hopper girl got in touch. She called and said her brother had found the image on the web. When she saw it she said she was transfixed and her whole childhood flooded back. She got in touch with me because she wanted to let me know that her life had turned out well. She lived in Manchester, had a family and a good job. She thanked me for taking the image. I made a big print of the image and sent it to her.

- Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen

Young Couple 1975 © Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen, Courtesy L. Parker Stephenson

Young Couple 1975 © Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen, Courtesy L. Parker Stephenson

People were baffled by my choice to live there. Not that many people had any idea where Finland was, but if they did, they thought it such a beautiful clean country, and why would I choose to come to Byker?

- Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen

Heather Playing Piano 1971 © Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen

Heather Playing Piano 1971 © Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen

When I was 14 or 15, I saw a programme about a group of documentary photographers. I knew from then on that was what I wanted to do.

- Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen

William Neilson 1971 © Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen, Courtes

William Neilson 1971 © Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen, Courtes

Photographing Byker the first time round. It was picked up by the national papers, and it was all about ‘the petite blonde on the wrong side of the lens’. I was even courted for a Page 3 appearance. It’s amusing to look back at now.

- Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen

Backlane Avondale Rd 1975 © Sirkka-Liisa KonttinenBacklane Avondale Rd 1975 © Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen

Backlane Avondale Rd 1975 © Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen

I decided to photograph every household in my street. I wasn’t that happy doing studio portraits anyway because I didn’t like the totally black background. I always feel that in portraiture, every inch of the frame is part of the story whether you like it or not, so I might as well tell a bigger story by doing it in people’s homes.

- Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen

Jean Barron with parents Stanley and Margaret wilson, 1980 © Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen

Jean Barron with parents Stanley and Margaret wilson, 1980 © Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen

To make the work interesting, for me, it’s about building relationships, where people also get to know me. I would visit them several time before I got to the point of taking a photograph.

- Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen

Agnes Jolly Smurthwaite, 1975 © Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen

Agnes Jolly Smurthwaite, 1975 © Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen

There’s a limit to one’s imagination. When you go into a person’s home, what you end up with easily is just a row of people sitting on the settee staring at you blankly, not knowing what you are doing, or what you want from them. I really dislike that kind of portraiture of the blank face, staring at the camera.

- Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen

Making up in Mason Street, 1971 © Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen

Making up in Mason Street, 1971 © Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen

There’s the obvious question of how documentary photography has changed over this period. For me it changed from an observational approach to the more collaborative method, reflecting the change in the access I had to people’s lives. Back then I lived in the area and no one worried about a young woman walking about with a camera. Nowadays people worry if there are people with cameras around children. I don’t think I would have been able to do now, what I did then.

- Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen

Byker Park Dominoes Club, 1974 © Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen

Byker Park Dominoes Club, 1974 © Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen

Often, if you go with the natural light and the fairly casual approach, you tend not to come away with stately portraiture.

- Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen

Lady with the Beehive, 1971 © Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen

Lady with the Beehive, 1971 © Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen

Mrs Potter in Mason Street, 1975 © Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen

Mrs Potter in Mason Street, 1975 © Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen


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