Archival Studies / A Portrait of an Invisible Woman

The Finnish Museum of Photography in Helsinki houses a collection of 5,000 color and black-and-white negatives by the Finnish amateur photographer Helvi Ahonen dating from 1940 to the nineteen- eighties. For her series, Archival Studies / A Portrait of an Invisible Woman (2013–14), Vatanen worked with these negatives from the museum’s archives. However, she was more interested in the materiality of the negatives—the surface and composite structure of the images—than in their documentary quality. To realize the roughly thirty works that comprise the series, Vatanen sought out damaged negatives in particular—those that carry the marks of time passing as well as the scars of archival (mis)treatment. These images were then combined with fictional elements to create an imaginary museum laboratory filled with personal memories, captured moments, and the passing of time.