Focusing on people
‘I am eternally fascinated by people and capture them in my street photographs.’
Street photography is seen as a style that documents and aestheticises its subjects, and it is deemed a challenging one. Press photographer Timo Kirves shared the same views. Finding a subject, pressing the shutter release and capturing a moment is difficult, because these moments on the streets are so fleeting. However, Kirves had had a long career as a press photographer, in which the photographer’s instincts and speed are key.
As a press photographer, Timo Kirves (1939–2021) became known for both his news photographs and articles. For six decades, he worked as a photographer for the magazines Anna and Suomen Kuvalehti, and the newspaper Helsingin Sanomat, to name a few. In addition to press photography, Kirves tried his hand at advertisement photography, took fashion pictures for clothing companies and took street photographs as a hobby.
In spring 2022, Kirves’s collection was donated to the Press Photo Archive JOKA. The collection includes photographs ranging from the clothing industry confederation Vateva’s fashion show to the funeral of the president of Egypt, Anwar Sadat. The majority of the negatives are from the 1980s, during the first half of which Kirves was mainly taking photographs for the magazines Suomen Kuvalehti and Kotiliesi. Since 1984, Kirves continued to work as a freelance press photographer.
In 2020, Kirves explained to the Finnish Broadcasting Company YLE that his pictures from the 1960s to the 1980s are black-and-white because colour film was unsuitable to his fast work pace at the time. This is also evident in his collection, in which the colour photos are focused on the 1990s. His street photographs can be found from amongst the press photographs, if you know where to look.
Photographers became interested in street photography as early as the 19th century, when cameras started to become smaller and therefore easier to carry. Street photographers want to capture everyday life, people and events as they are – without embellishment, posing or planning. Since the beginning of street photography in the late 19th century, huge advancements have been made in photography technology, but the themes have stayed the same. After the Second World War, street photography grew more common as cameras became more readily available. These days, anyone can be a street photographer, because we constantly carry our phones and their cameras with us. This has made street photography highly popular.
Kirves took street photographs both in Finland and abroad. A picture from Hakaniemi Market Hall was taken without the subject realising it, but a boy in the streets of Paris did notice the photographer. Both of these methods are part of street photography. The styles of street photographers vary: some focus on the environment, others on the people. In 2020, Timo Kirves said: ‘I am eternally fascinated by people and capture them in my street and documentary photographs.’
More photographs by Timo Kirves can be found at https://museovirasto.finna.fi/joka.
Text: Anni Holmberg
Shopping at Hakaniemi Market Hall, 1988. Photo: Timo Kirves / Press Photo Archive JOKA
A boy selling flowers in Paris, 1988. Photo: Timo Kirves / Press Photo Archive JOKA