25 April, 2024

Hotel life through a camera lens

In autumn 2023, members of the Finnish Museum of Photography's youth group, Photofuss, were invited to a 24-hour artist residency at Hotel St. George. An exhibition of their photos, opening for St. George Week in spring, is displayed at St. George Bakery until the end of 2024.

”Spending a night in a hotel is a unique experience for every guest, but this is rarely reflected in traditional hotel imagery,” says Hotel St. George’s Marketing Manager Sirja Passoja.

It’s this idea that sparked the collaboration between the Finnish Museum of Photography and its Photofuss group for young adults interested in photography. Together, the parties came up with the St. George Residency project, in which five photographers take turns to stay in the hotel, with free rein to capture their experience.

“Through photography, we can showcase the hotel experience from new and surprising perspectives," Passoja continues.

The appeal of artistic freedom

The museum's Head of Education and Public Programmes, Erja Salo, is satisfied with the enthusiastic reception of the St. George Residency project in the group.

“I believe that Photofuss members were inspired by the project's artistic freedom, a rare opportunity within commissioned work. They were given complete autonomy in selecting equipment, themes, and models for their photos. Pictures could be taken of anything and anywhere, as long as other hotel guests were not disturbed," she says.

Valuable experience for young artists

The invaluable opportunity that the project offered photographers at the beginning of their careers was a major attraction for the group's facilitators.

”A photography project in a deliciously inspiring environment like St. George is not only wonderful but also a truly priceless experience for these young people. With all the practical arrangements involved, it has required an incredible amount of dedication from them, too," Event Producer Anna Reivilä highlights. Out of ten applicants, five artists were eventually selected for the residency. They included photography students, professionals, and enthusiasts: Emilia Rautio, Joona Möttö, Anastasija-Evgenija, Rita Topaloglu and Karun Verma.

A day and a night floating in a bubble

The first photographers to stay in the hotel were Emilia Rautio and Joona Möttö. Rautio is a photographer and artist, while Möttö is a film director, photographer and artist currently studying photography at LAB Institute of Design and Fine Arts in Lahti.

Emilia Rautio prefers capturing images outdoors in natural light. Her residency, however, coincided with a rainy, overcast day. Restricted to the hotel’s indoor spaces, she found herself drawn to St. George Care Spa.

"I feel a strong connection to nature as it enhances my wellbeing on every level. During my residence, water resonated with me, representing emotions, the subconscious, femininity and the power to heal and purify. These are the themes I explore in my body of work, Underwater," she explains.

Rautio's photographs depict moments of floating, diving, and playing in the water. Some images focus solely on water itself, its movement, and its interplay with light.

”At the same time, water represented this whole airy and sparkling levity of the hotel experience. While at the hotel, I felt like I was floating in a bubble, as if in another world that made my life outside seem unreal,” Rautio muses.

Beauty from an outsider’s perspective

Joona Möttö proclaims that he loves films and says that subsequently his photos, too, are often “stories through a cinematic lens”. During his residency at St. George, he drew inspiration from Sofia Coppola's film Lost in Translation.

”The film is all about finding a connection in a foreign country. I wanted to describe a similar feeling of alienation, as a hotel is a completely foreign environment for me," Möttö says.

With the exception of one, he took all his photos in the hotel room. In one, a young woman lies alone in bed, an untouched breakfast tray beside her, while in another, everyday mess contrasts with the luxurious environment.

"Perhaps the pictures show my melancholic tendencies. I did, however, want them to be beautiful rather than sombre," Möttö describes.

A performance in an enclosed space

Salo from the Helsinki Museum of Photography compares the artist residency to an experiential performance.

"A day in the hotel provides excellent boundaries for an otherwise free artistic expression. The hotel is like a laboratory where the photographers operate within their own bubble, in a positive sense," she explains.

To Passoja, too, the project has served to highlight the difference between hotel life and ordinary life.

”A hotel can be a haven or a temporary escape into one's own world. At best, a night in a hotel takes you beyond everyday routines, as if to an alternate reality.”

Though hotel experiences are as different as hotel guests, at St. George, they are all united by tranquillity and beauty.

”Aesthetics are a crucial part of well-being, which is why art plays such a central role here. Following this wonderful inaugural collaboration with the photographers, I look forward to seeing our artist residency at the Hotel St. George expand and include more art forms in the future, Passoja concludes.

St. George Residency x Photofuss exhibition opens at St. George Bakery on April 23rd, 2024

Discover the unique photographic works captured during the first 24-hour art residencies in St. George during autumn 2023. Featuring artists Emilia Rautio, Joona Möttö, Anastasija-Evgenija, Rita Topaloglu and Karun Verma. Free admission.

See St. George Bakery opening hours

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