Welcome to the exhibition opening in the presence of the artist Friday 5 January from 4 to 6pm.

Härkälä is a documentary photography project located in the margin of Finnish society that tells about the rugged reality of a masculine world. Härkälä is a kind of a manly micro cosmos where spirit streams, and horns latter.

Härkälä project leads back to the beginning of 1990’s, when Tolonen was photographing the life of East Helsinki-based free spirit car mechanics who were willingly living in the margin of the society he knew. The work continued ten years later in early 2000’s.

The objective was to turn the adventures of the buddies into an illustrated story about the absurd collateral reality in the margin of society and to tell about alternative life choices as well as about creating your own reality and living outside the norms of society. When returning to map the situation of the main characters in 2013 Tolonen soon found out that the eventful and easy going atmosphere had either slowed down or, as was the case with some characters, deepened into serious alcoholism and the social chaos following. Two characters had died along the years. Nevertheless the buddies were very eager to continue the project, even after a long break.

As the photo shoots went by, events began to focus on “Hara”. Hara is an alone living man approaching his fifties who has been paralyzed and has become disabled in a motorbike accident in his teenage years. He has retreated from Helsinki into an old farm in Ristiina, Southern Savonia. Hara and Iikka Tolonen are also friends from childhood, who have met each other at the age of three. This connection has along the photo shoots brought a deep, personal level into the project in the form of themes of friendship, choices in life and destiny.

While proceeding the themes of the project have deepened and gotten gloomier. The absurd circus of life has gotten ever-darker tones and the artist has found himself in the middle of creating a certain portrait of Finnish social exclusion. The straight and unadorned way of photographing that Tolonen uses creates a realistic picture of the theme. Härkälä project makes Finnish reality and the social problems bubbling under the surface visible, and is thus a very actual documentation of today’s Finland.

Instead of introducing dynamic technocrats and business-religious sales pitches leeching their own nests Härkälä shows a small cut of the real face of the hundred-year-old Finland. In addition to the social-documentary content Härkälä is a booze-steamed and smoke-saturated story about life outside the system, in the real underground. Härkälä is an ode to friendship and to the nobel art of messing around. Long live rock’n’roll!

Härkälä exhibition is based on the book with the same name by Tolonen that was published in September 2015. Tolonen won the Nordic Dummy Award arranged by the Norwegian Fotogalleriet and Förbundet Frie Fotografer with his Härkälä dummy in 2014. The book was published by German Kehrer Verlag.


Iikka Tolonen (born 1968) is an documentary photographer based in Helsinki. Tolonen deals with the phenomena of human life from a subjective point of view with close proximity. He presents his subject directly and uncensored, but as a counterbalance to the shock value, his work also mediate plenty of warm humor and everyday absurdism. Tolonen has graduated as a master of arts from the department of photography at the University of Art and Design in Helsinki. He works as a full time lecturer at Pekka Halonen Academy in Tuusula.