The invisible man’s quarter of a century

Festival’s photographer Seilo Ristimäki talks about his exhibition, opened today. Feelings since 1960, 2.8.-1.9.2019, Brinkkala Gallery.


Photographer Seilo Ristimäki, what is it like to work for Turku Music Festival?

“Technology has changed a lot during 25 years. Before the digital time, during the era of the printed picture, there was a certain delay. Now the social media is immediately buzzing, and pictures have to be ready and distributed much faster. In my field, I get to talk to stars behind the scenes. Surprisingly many are fond of Turku. It’s considered a charming little town, and the festival to be well organized.

The multidisciplinary nature of Turku Music festival is nothing new – the festival has always been diverse for its time. What it is to be bold, however, changes. Klaus Mäkelä is the fourth artistic director I work for, and everyone has brought something new to the table. Turku Music Festival has always been primarily a festival for classical music, but the atmosphere has relaxed a lot especially under Topi Lehtipuu’s era. Under his time, there was a lot of experimenting going on with the concert venues – there was one in a cave underground, and another on the plateau over the gasometer. They were visually interesting, but challenging for production. Ville Matvejeff brought back the bigger pieces. The new artistic directors are more international, with large international friend groups. That will attract even more interesting stars to Turku.

Turku Music Festival is an interesting motif for a photographer. We’re in my home town and the riverside doesn’t change, but I get to photograph new and interesting folks. Bigger, visual opera productions are always intriguing, but individual personalities are their truest selves during rehearsals. A photographer has succeeded when they can’t be heard or seen by the audience – I’m sort of the invisible man of the concert, who makes the evening visible for others.”

Tell us about your upcoming exhibition in Brinkkala Gallery?

“I remember approximately all of the pictures I have taken, but sometimes faces lack names. That’s when I need to search in the archives. My anniversary exhibition consists of 50 visually interesting pictures that I chose from 30 000 that I have taken for the festival. It does show that it has been primarily documentary, but the exhibition isn’t to showcase stars and venues. However, music enthusiasts might find it interesting to spot pictures of a younger Leif Segerstam, or the Kuusisto brothers when they were young.

My style has remained unchanged these past 25 years, but technology has changed the pictures. In 1994, newspapers were still in black and white… The audience’s clothing has relaxed, that can be seen in the pictures. Baroque groups used to dress in historical outfits and it had to be in the Academy Building, but now you can experiment more. The fact that historical outfits have been left out would have been scandalous twenty years ago.”

What does the art of photography bring to the world of music?

“A few years ago there was a concert where a baroque orchestra played Four seasons a little like jazz, so that the conductor left a lot of air in the notes for more room for phrasing. To tell about music in pictures can be hard – it can be difficult to take great pictures even if the concert is good. Photos still bring visibility and publicity. Under 25 years, you have time to document cultural history and local history, and put Turku on the map. My pictures have been used in foreign media, when we have had international stars in Turku.

The exhibition that celebrates my quarter of a century, happens to be held during the 60th edition of Turku Music Festival. A whole lot has changed, but a personal style can be seen throughout my photography. When I suggested an exhibition, I was immediately met with enthusiasm on the part of Turku Music Festival. I’m grateful for that, and the chance to utilize Brinkkala Gallery for the collaboration.”

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