Photo artist Felicia Honkasalo: “My grandfather is still a mystery”

Photo artist Felicia Honkasalo: “My grandfather is still a mystery”

Freshly published photo book Grey Cobalt is a portrait of a photo artist Felicia Honkasalo’s late grandfather. The book and the photo exhibition, which is currently exhibiting in London, look into interaction between human, objects and the environment. Honkasalo told us what it’s all about:

How did you get the idea for the photo book?

“I happened to inherit artifacts, documents, photos, maps and stone materials that used to belong to my grandfather, a person of whom I had no memories of. As I studied the objects, I began to wonder, if they could reveal something about my grandfather and his life. This set me on a journey, during which, the story of my grandfather, who worked his whole life in the mines, and the wartime history gradually started to form and emerge.” 

What stories did the objects tell?

“The objects didn’t necessarily tell any particular story, but they taught me to look at the world differently. In general, objects, landscapes, and material are treated as if they had no history. However, for example, a stone on the kitchen table has already witnessed and lived a diverse life, long before ending on that table. Through photographs I strive to reveal the stories behind the objects.”

Do you feel that you’ve grown closer to your grandfather over the course of the project?

“My grandfather is still a mystery. It is said, that in art and art history, the portrait tells more about the artist, than the person in they’re portraying. My grandfather worked as a starting point of my journey, but the path led me to other worlds and subjects.”

Why are people still interested in the World War II?

“There are many unspoken things associated with war. It is only in recent years that people have gradually started to speak of them and lift the curtain of the silence. The Second World War is not so far in the past. It is possible, that through ancestors, the experiences of war still lives in our generation. Thus, the stories related to the war may still be viewed and experienced as personal stories.“

If you could choose an object or a photo, that best describes you, to leave for future generations, what would it be and why?

“A microscope. Perhaps it encapsulates how I want to look at the world, that is, to study something big through small things.”


The project has received financial support from the Finnish Institute in London.

Grey Cobalt, 11th January – 15th February 2019 at Webber Gallery, Newman St, Fitzrovia, London W1T 1PE Free admission.

Text: Nirosha Pöyhölä Photo: Felicia Honkasalo

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