Jörn Donner (1933–2020) was known as an award-winning film director and producer, writer and Member of Parliament. In May 2020, an extensive photo archive was discovered in Donner’s family house at Pohjoisranta 12. The general public can now explore the photos for the first time as a posthumously curated whole. The exhibition working group consists of curator Hannamari Shakya, non-fiction author and editor Tuula Kousa, who led the group, and graphic designer Anders Carpelan, who was also the long-term cover designer of Donner’s books. The skilfully selected photographs are of high artistic quality and offer a window into the world of the 1950s and 1960s through Donner’s lens.
“Going through such extensive material, we formed a mental image of the person behind the photographs. The image did not match the profile of a towering cultural personality – it was something completely different. Donner is not the centre of attention; he moves discreetly, examines the world with curiosity and makes sharp yet sensitive observations,” says Hannamari Shakya, who went through the archive and selected and curated most of the exhibited photographs.
According to Shakya, Donner was an intriguing aberration as a photographer. “Perhaps he did not think of himself as a photographer but as a person who could use the camera as a tool for his observations and analysis. Donner’s photos reveal an imperfect world with overexposed cities and blurred landscapes. All exposure errors that occurred at the time of shooting, scratches left in the films and negatives that ended up in bags and old envelopes and were stuck together over time create temporal layers in the image.”
During his travels as a reporter in the 1950s and 1960s, Donner also wrote books, including his breakthrough work Report from Berlin (1958) and Världsboken (1968), as well as letters to his friends and associates. The exhibition includes a few letters written by Donner and souvenirs from his travels. “I have bought a Leica M3 with a Summarit 1:1.5 lens. – – I am damned fond of the camera and thank you for advising me to buy it,” Donner wrote in his letter to K.-G. Roos in Berlin in January 1959.
In addition to the exhibition, Donner Productions Oy and Otava are publishing a photo book entitled Jörn Donner – Matkalla – På resa – Travelling 1951–1968 (Tuula Kousa – Anders Carpelan – Hannamari Shakya). The book is available in Villa Hakasalmi’s museum shop.
Jörn Donner – Travelling 1951–68
31 March–3 September 2023
Open: Tue 11.00–19.00, Wed–Sun 11.00–17.00, Mon closed
7–10 April: Closed for Easter
Entrance fee €14/€10, free admission for visitors under 18 years of age and with the Museum Card
Free admission day at Villa Hakasalmi on last Friday of each month at 11.00–17.00