The Nightgown Pictures
14 piezo prints and 2 archival color injet prints, dimensions variable, 1996-2004

Every year on my mother Stina's birthday, my grandmother Nunni dressed her in a handmade nightgown and took her outside to be photographed. This tradition continued until the birthday when Stina could no longer fit into the nightgown.

My mother's birthday is in July, a time of year when her family almost always left their home in Helsinki to vacation on Pörtö, a small cluster of islands in the Finnish archipelago. Most of the nightgown photographs were taken there. Although my mother left Finland a long time ago, my family continued to travel from the United States to Pörtö every year, and as a result I have also grown up spending part of each summer on these islands.

Starting in 1997, my mother and I have searched for all the places where Nunni took the nightgown pictures. Each time, we tried to locate the exact spot where Nunni was originally standing when she took the picture of my mother. To find these locations we searched for specific trees, rocks, horizon lines, houses, and fences, and spoke to long-time island residents about the way things used to look. In some cases, we found a perfect match. Other times, we were left confused.

The project became many things over time: an excuse to travel, a landscape study, an attempt to take part in a family ritual that I missed, a study of someone else's methods, and a small-scale research project on the island's community and history.

Next project in Charts and Systems | Next project in Photography