Maneli, men’s meeting place in Heinola, was located on the corner of Torikatu street and Kauppakatu street in Heinola, Finland. Women bought newly-baked bread on the other side of the building in the Maneli Bakery. A boy rides a bicycle along Kauppakatu street.
História

'Little Pietari’s town' by Anja Halla

Photographer documenting two decades in a Finnish town

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Raija Linna (abre numa nova janela) (Finnish Heritage Agency)

Finnish photographer Anja Halla’s street photography documents twenty years in the life of a district with wooden houses in Heinola, a town to the north of Helsinki.

The stores of the photographer, clock smith, hairdressers and cloth merchant were in the same building Pietari lived in. The building on the small street did not have any other stores than the small general merchandise store of widow Vetterant. At one end of the building were the blacksmith's workshop and outhouses and, at the other, a room with a stove for Pietari and his father.

Pikku Pietarin piha by Aapeli, 1958

Anja Halla was a photographer for Itä-Häme newspaper from 1963 to 1998. Over the years, she took press photos that told the story of the wooden district of Heinola and how people used to live there.

The houses depicted in her black-and-white photographs are almost exactly the same as those from the novel Pikku Pietarin piha (Little Peter's Yard) by newspaper columnist Aapeli. The novel is set around a block of wooden houses in the small town of Kuopio.

 The Suominen Book Store on the corner of Savontie Road (right) and Kirkkokatu Street (left) in Heinola, Finland, was one of the woden buildings in an unbroken row bordering the Market Place in Heinola, Finland.
The Seppäläinen Shoe Store was in a traditional wooden building in Heinola, Finland, till the turn of the 1980’s.

In this photograph, the K. Markkanen bed linen and textile store on Savontie is having a moving sale. The book shop next to it looks already empty. The Seppäläinen shoe store on Kauppakatu is also having a sale to get rid of its inventory. The writing on the wall says: 'building to be demolished'.

Halla lived through a shift in society. She has experienced and seen a lot. Her photographs tell personal stories from a warm, human perspective. She does not arrange her subjects. Instead, she simply observes and documents.

Maneli, men’s meeting place in Heinola, was located on the corner of Torikatu street and Kauppakatu street in Heinola, Finland. Women bought newly-baked bread on the other side of the building in the Maneli Bakery. A boy rides a bicycle along Kauppakatu street.

Anja Halla and her camera were a familiar sight to the people of Heinola, busy with their lives. Here, a boy in the neighbourhood rides his bike and takes a curious glance at Halla and the viewer of the photo while moving forward all the time.

Halla's photos show the town's beautiful porches, decorated windows, stone foundations, inner courtyards and picket fences. The yard of the rented barracks has a well and clothes lines. The wear and tear of daily life shows. The eaves are crooked, the gutter is broken, the window frames are run down and the paint on the wall is sun-bleached. The walls of snow cover any evidence of the draughty rooms and tuberculosis.

The photographs of the demolition and construction of Heinola were originally published in Itä-Häme newspaper.

In 1985, Halla assembled an exhibition of lost Heinola at Heinola City Museum. The black-and-white photos from 1965 to 1985 provide a perspective on a bygone world. The captions show that all of these building were demolished: the marina with its painted walls, the Tuukkanen building, the Paalanen building, Niemelä manor, the Koli block on Harjukatu and the Heinola co-operative building next to the square.

Halla's street photography documents changes in the small town over twenty years, the end of an era. In 2013, 28 years later, the exhibition was again displayed at Heinola City Museum.

Halla's photography remind older generations of how people used to live and tell younger generations a story of a world that no longer exists. The past and the present are linked in an astonishing manner by the photos.

'The friendly living environment of the wooden houses and gardens is now gone' said Halla about the exhibition in an article from 1985, wondering if this is what the people of Heinola really wanted.


This blog was originally published in 2020 for the Finnish magazine of photography 'Kamera'. In 2021, it was published on Finnish Heritage Agency website. All of Anja Halla's images of Heinola can be found on Europeana.