Not only for the pictures – Photography as a technical hobby in Finland 1900–1939

4/2011

Tiina Männistö-Funk

The article approaches the history of non-professional photography in Finland as part of the history of technology and scrutinises especially the significance of technological enthusiasm in the practices and definitions of photography between the early 20th century and the late 1930s. The two main source groups consist of the photography magazines and literature as well as of the written replies of an extensive questionnaire on photography memories.

The article starts its study of the technological enthusiasm and the motivations of photography by using self-made cameras as an example. Moving on, it demonstrates how the centrality of technological enthusiasm can help to explain such typical features of Finnish photography as the small number of female amateurs and the persistency of old techniques. With their technology discourse, serious amateurs were also able to distinguish themselves from the so-called snapshooters, despised for their supposedly indifferent relationship to technology. Taking a closer look, we find evidence that snapshooters as a group existed predominantly as an extension of the amateur self definition, despite the fact that new practices of photography were winning in popularity during the late 1920s and the 1930s. Although internationally often seen as the core area of snapshooters, family photography did apparently not become widespread in Finland during the period studied in this article. Thus, further research is needed to identify and study the different practices and subjects of non-professional photography.