President Urho Kekkonen visits the World Gold Panning Championships in the Tankavaara village in Lapland on July 24, 1977. Gold-digger Niilo Raumala next to the president. Photo: Christian Westerback / Pressfoto Zeeland / JOKA / Finnish Heritage Agency. Kuvaaja: Christian Westerback
President Urho Kekkonen visits the World Gold Panning Championships in the Tankavaara village in Lapland on Sunday 24 July 1977. Gold-digger Niilo Raumala is having a smoke next to the president. Photo: Christian Westerback / Pressfoto Zeeland / Press Photo Archive JOKA / Finnish Heritage Agency

Zoom in on Kekkonen! Photograph exhibition is open in Tamminiemi from 30 May


When the formal suit of a statesman comes off, President Kekkonen turns into “Urkki of the people”: an exercising, hunting, fishing, cross-country skiing, virile man of the people, who loves literature and art. The National Museum of Finland welcomes you to Tamminiemi to an exhibition of press photographs of President Urho Kekkonen, selected from the Press Photo Archive JOKA and from the archives of photographer Caj Bremer.

The press photographs of President Urho Kekkonen from the Press Photo Archive JOKA and from the archives of academician and photographer Caj Bremer are on show in the fitting setting of Villa Tamminiemi, the former official residence of President Kekkonen.

The Zoom in on Kekkonen! Press Photographs exhibition shows how, as the years passed, the image of Kekkonen as the great leader of the people, the ultimate outdoorsman and a passionate fisherman formed – and was constructed – on  the pages of newspapers and magazines. The photographs were taken during years 1952–1980, in moments when Urho Kekkonen was off-duty, on holidays, or after the official programme of events or state visits.

In the words of photographer Kalle Kultala, Kekkonen had “a healthy need to be seen and heard by the people”. Kekkonen made sure the photographers had something to photograph and the people something to look at. Press photographers followed him everywhere, whether to Lapland’s freezing winds on the ice of the Somaslompolo lake or on a holiday on Caribbean beaches. Kekkonen’s stunts were widely covered by the press, photographed from several different angles. The president became the most photographed man in Finland.

In many press photographs, Kekkonen is seen together with the world political leaders. We see the president ice fishing with the Swedish Crown Prince Carl Gustav, telling fishing tales with the Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin, and traveling on a ship with the Yugoslavian President Josip Broz Tito. It seems that he had close, personal relationships with the heads of state in both the East and the West.

Kekkonen enjoyed chatting with regular citizens as well. On his provincial trip to the Kainuu region he stopped to discuss public road issues at the table of the Pöllänen house, and in the Oulu Market Hall he sought out the fishmonger’s shop of the renowned Pulli girls. The president found out the source of the delicious ruffe caviar served in Tamminiemi.

In the opinion of press photographer Heikki Y. Rissanen, Kekkonen understood the value of the photograph better than any other Finnish politician. Kekkonen was able to go with the moment and improvise. Historian Kati Katajisto aptly calls him “an artist of politics”.

Press photographers featured in the exhibition are Jorma Blomqvist, Caj Bremer, Toivo Grönroos, Kai Hagström, Helge Heinonen, V. K. Hietanen, Kari Laakso, Hannu Lindroos, Tapio Maikkola, Stina Mäenpää, A. Pietinen, Jussi Pohjakallio, Esa Pyysalo, Heikki Y. Rissanen, UA Saarinen, Eljas Sallmén, Kari Santala, Matti Tapola, Christian Westerback, Mauri Vuorinen, Pentti Vänskä.

The press photographs of the exhibition come from the archive of academician, press photographer Caj Bremer and from the collections of the Press Photo Archive JOKA of the Finnish Heritage Agency. The photographs have been published at least in the magazines Suomen Kuvalehti, Seura, Apu, Hymy, KUVA-POSTI, VIP, and Viikkosanomat, the newspapers Ilta-Sanomat, Helsingin Sanomat, and Kaleva, as well as in magazines and newspapers that were clients of the news photo agency Pressfoto.

Urho Kekkonen’s clothes and sports equipment on show at the exhibition are from the collections of the National Museum of Finland.

The exhibition is open from 30 May 2019–27 December 2020 during the opening hours of Tamminiemi.