The Photographers’ Gallery presents Claire Aho: Studio Works, the first solo international showcase of Aho’s photographs, a pioneer of Finnish colour photography and a key cultural figure in her homeland. This exhibition focuses on Aho’s 1950-70 studio based works, displaying images from the world of advertising, editorial and fashion, alongside original Finnish lifestyle magazines featuring her cover pictures. Brightly coloured, formally inventive and full of wit, Claire Aho’s photographs capture a distinctive era in Finland’s history while maintaining contemporary vitality and relevance.
Claire Aho started her career as a documentary filmmaker before eventually setting up her own commercial studio in the 1950s – a formative time in Finnish design. Whether capturing her models in amusing poses or meticulously composing still life scenes, Aho’s cutting edge approach to image making was a reflection of the bold and lively atmosphere prevalent in the creative sector in Helsinki at the time. Her prolific, quality output across a broad range of industries created a demand for her services among leading commercial brands and publications, making her one of the most prominent photographers of the period.
While running her own studio Aho remained in complete control of the space, commanding every stage of the production from casting, styling and construction of sets to liaising with designers, manufacturers, magazines and advertising agencies. This exhibition looks at Aho’s inventive working methods and practices within the studio environment as well as her relationship to the models, objects, forms and patterns depicted. Photographs are hung in loosely themed groups complemented by vintage publications, placing them in the broader context of how they were disseminated and used. Occasional glimpses in the pictures of the machinations of the studio – lighting gear, colour charts, the casual artist portrait –further enhance the photograph’s journey from initial conception to its various commercial applications.
Brett Rogers, Director, The Photographers’ Gallery said: We are delighted to be able to introduce the work of Claire Aho to a new audience outside her native Finland. Claire Aho's pioneering vision and innovative approach to colour re-energised editorial and fashion photography in Europe during the mid-50s and late 60s. Her work resonates with contemporary artists such as Roe Ethridge, Michele Abeles, Owen Kydd and Bryan Dooley whose staging of the image serves to re-examine the language of editorial and advertising photography.