Vesa Oja- Bill Kunnas, Udora, Ontario, Canada, 2005

Documenting Finnish Americans and Finnish Canadians, Vesa Oja’s exhibition Finglish is on display from 8 May until 28 July at The Finnish Museum of Photography. The collection of images reveals the dreams, utopias and homesickness of the various immigrants he has come into contact with, and documents their Finnish-flavoured North American life.

Comprising some 70 photographs, the eight-year project began in 2004, when Oja left for North America. Following in the footsteps of his uncle and aunt who had earlier moved over there, during his many trips to the continent, Oja drove for tens of thousands of kilometres and met and photographed hundreds of Finnish Americans and Finnish Canadians. Capturing images also of their descendants, and places related to their history, Oja also became accustomed to the use of broken Finnish, or Finglish, which was the overwhelming parlance of these people, both old and young.

Furthermore he became acquainted with the landscapes in the Great Lakes region, FinnFests, Finntowns and the villages of Kaleva, Toivola and Onnela. During his numerous journeys, he bore witness to numerous unbelievable stories – a mix of happy, tragic and moving tales revolving around immigrant life that exists far away from Finnish shores.

Vesa Oja – Finglish
8 May-28 July
The Finnish Museum of
The Cable Factory
Tallberginkatu 1G

Also on display at the exhibition is the short film, Rauntrippi Piutista Suppuriin, directed by Jenni Stammeier, which recounts the many trips taken by Oja to capture his subjects. The documentary tells the tales of various Finnish Americans and Finnish Canadians, and reveals numerous photographs that have not been included in the exhibition or the related book.

James O’Sullivan