My Corners: Lissu Kaivolehto

Age 71
Photographs graffitis and changes in the environment in Roihuvuori and Herttoniemenranta

On Taking Photos
“I got my first camera when I turned forty. I wasn’t too interested in it at first and only shot a couple of film rolls on each vacation. I wish I would have started documenting everyday life already back then. When I was working in the Hietaniemi Cemetery, I started taking photos of the sculptures there, and it soon expanded into other subjects and especially nature. Since the cameras back then used film, taking photos was expensive, and you couldn’t just take photos of everything you see. I bought my first digital camera in 2004. I was taking photos of two swans at the Porolahti beach in Roihuvuori on a spring evening, when I realized that I could take as many shots that I could ever want and that it wouldn’t cost me a thing. I started documenting the changes in my environment when I moved into my current apartment in 1999. The houses opposite of my apartment building were being built, and I started photographing the construction site. Since then, I’ve taken pictures of all the changes in my environment, including graffiti.”

Graffiti in the Haltiala Groves
“My first memory of graffiti is from a place, where I never would have expected to see it. It was on October 10 in 2005 in Haltiala, somewhere beyond the fields. There, in a birch grove, was some kind of building with graffiti on its walls, and I took photos of it. I think the next time when I photographed graffiti was after the VR warehouse buildings burned down. It was a Saturday, and my shift had just ended in the graveyard, I walked over to the burnt ruins to take some photos, and I saw graffiti on them. I didn’t know how to react and I had some mixed feelings, but something about them fascinated me. I had heard all the talk about illegal graffiti and smudging, but those things in the ruins didn’t look like smudges to me. In fact, I thought they looked quite artistic.”

Experiencing Graffiti
“I don’t know anything about graffiti and I haven’t really educated myself on the subject. I don’t know the symbolism. But the shapes and colours really speak to me. I love beautiful colours and shapes. Especially when it’s dark in the winter, graffiti really pops out. They make the city look more alive. Maybe one day I’ll get to know them better. Never say never.”

Nothing is Permanent
“There used to be a building opposite the Roihuvuori church, called Ankan talo. It had a bank, a post office, a hairdressing salon and a restaurant, but now it’s been demolished. When the house was ordered to be demolished, people started painting graffiti on it. I started taking photos of the works and got addicted to it. I realised how important it was to document the things that were here just a short while ago. Now they are building new houses and the fence around the construction site is a sanctioned graffiti wall. I take photos of it at least once a week, and more now in the summertime. Pekka Mäkelä probably takes photos twice each day and posts them on the Roihuvuori Facebook pages. I had this idea that graffiti is like the bloom of cherry blossoms, to which we pay a lot of attention to here in Roihuvuori. They say that the blossom depicts the impermanence of life, but it’s the same thing with graffiti. The art is all in the moment. If you happen to be there, you get to see it. If you go the following day, there might eb something else in its place.”

Local History
“I’m not involved in the more organized groups of my neighbourhood community, but I pay attention to what they are doing and sometimes I also take part in the events. Today I’m going to cafe Rio’s photograpgh night. Rather than Roihuvuori, I’m more active in the communities in the ceded Karelia area. I’m a member of the Pälkjärvi local society and of the committee for the Pälkjärvi people in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area. I’m also an editor of the Pälkjärveläinen magazine. I’m really interested and curious about everything that happens around me and also about local history. To me, local history means the Karelian home region of my parents, my home region in the northern Karelia, as well as the home region of my children here in Roihuvuori. That’s the history that I want to record for future generations. My son came over last week, and we thought that we should try to make a note of all the things in Roihuvuori together. There’s so much that has been lost since the times that my children were little.”

Photos, Photos, Photos
“I have hundreds of photos of graffiti. I’ve uploaded my photos to the Herttoniemen eri alueet kuvin Facebook group, which is dedicated to photos of Herttoniemi. I have several photo albums there, such as Sillan alla (Under the Bridge), albums of buildings that have now been demolished, and one about the construction site wall graffiti in 2016. I’m going to make one for 2017 as well. And of course I share my photos on my own profile, I’m not stingy about them. I’ve also printed 44 different books of my photos through Ifolor. Many of them have been presents, like the one that I made for my friend about our strawberry places. And of course I’ve made some about my grandchildren. One book is about the whooper swan that wintered nearby. I have so many ideas. I’ve often said in jest that I have a long career in the leaf business: I’ve leafed through a lot of newspapers, I’ve sold leaflets as a telemarketer, and I’ve raked a countless number of leaves in the cemetery. And now I’m an editor of a magazine that you can leaf through. Constantly moving upwards in my career!”

Never Alone
“People who walk their dogs get to know each other easily. It’s the same thing with those of us who have a camera and spend our time hanging around in the shores. I’ve gained many friends from this so-called beach bunch. We meet each other there and we’re friends on Facebook. Since I’m Karelian, it’s easy for me to approach people. But at the waterside, everyone can talk with strangers. If you see a little bird or a swan, you get emotional, so it’s easy to start a conversation. You often hear that you don’t make new friends when you’re older. It’s not true for me. You should have an open-minded approach to people, life, and the environment, and do things that make you and others feel good. I’m grateful that I can live in this environment, so close to nature and full of inspiration.”

The map shows you Lissu’s Corners. Click on a place to read what she has to say about it.