SIRKKA-LIISA KONTTINEN (Born 1948, Finland) 

Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen (b. 1948) is a Finnish-British photographer and a founding member of the Amber Collective; a group of social documentary photographers and filmmakers who, for fifty years, have devoted themselves to long term engagement with the working class and marginalized communities in the north east of England. 

Solo exhibitions of Konttinen’s work have been presented in the United States, Mexico, Finland, France, Poland, Sweden, Hungary, Slovakia, and the UK: most notably in 2016 at the inauguration of the Tate Modern’s Switch House. In addition almost 40 years ago, Konttinen’s Byker project toured the People’s Republic of China, marking the first British cultural exchange with China after the Cultural Revolution. Konttinen’s photographs returned to China in 2015 as part of a traveling group exhibition. Her British interiors will be on view at the Rencontres de la Photographies, Arles in 2019. 

In 2011, Konttinen’s photographs along with Amber's films were inscribed in the UNESCO UK Memory of the World Register as an archive of national cultural significance. 

CHRONOLOGY 

1948 Born in Myllykoski, Finland 

1960 Inspired by her aunt, starts taking photographs at age 12 

1960s Studies filmmaking at the Regent Street Polytechnic film school in London 

Co-founds the Amber Collective; dedicated to documenting the working class and marginalized communities in film and photography 

1969 Amber Collective moves to Newcastle upon Tyne in the North East of England 

Konttinen moves to Byker, a working class district of Newcastle upon Tyne, and documents the community over seven years 

1971-1972 Photographs The Hoppings, the largest traveling fair in Europe 

Returns to photograph the fair in 1976 and again in 1980 

1973-1998 Documents life on the beaches in the North East 

A film of her photographs, The Writing in the Sand, is released in 1991 and the book, Writing in the Sand, is published in 2001 

1977 Side Gallery, dedicated to socially engaged documentary photography, is established by the Amber Collective 

1982-1988 Konttinen photographs the lives and families of students at a local dancing school A film titled Keeping Time is released in 1988 and Step by Step, the book, is

published the following year 

1991 Spends a year in her native Finland, where she produces a series titled, My Finnish Roots 

1994 Letters to Katja, an Amber Film, is made about her time in Finland with her daughter 

1998-2002 Explores the legacy of the coal mining industry in her series on the Black 

Beaches of County Durham The Coal Coast, a book on the landscape, is published in 2003 

2000 Publication Writing in the Sand is released; about young and old, human and canine who gather on the shores North Eastern England 

2003-2008 Konttinen returns to Byker and creates portraits of the multicultural communities living in the re-developed Byker Estate. The film about this new project, Today I’m With You, and the book, Byker Revisited, are both released in 2009 

2011 The UNESCO UK Memory of the World Register inscribes Konttinen’s photography and Amber’s films as being of “outstanding national value and importance to the United Kingdom” 

2016 Wins a Journal Culture Award for “Special Contribution to North East Arts and Culture” 

Keynote Speaker at the Urban Encounters conference at Tate Modern, London 

2018 Kontinnen curates Women by Women, for the multiplatform Great Exhibition of the North festival, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, UK. This presentation was highlighted as one of the top 10 exhibitions in Europe, summer 2018 (The Guardian). 

SOLO EXHIBITIONS 

2017 The Coal Coast | Side Gallery, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK 

Step by Step | Krakow Photomonth Festival, Krakow, Poland 

Step by Step: Mothers and Daughters at a Small Dancing School | L. Parker Stephenson Photographs, New York, NY 

2016 - 2017 Byker/Living Cities | Inaugural installation at the Switch House Tate Modern, London UK 

2015 Coal Staithes | St. Mary’s Cultural Centre, Gateshead, UK 

The Hoppings & Byker Revisited | L. Parker Stephenson Photographs, New York, NY 

2013 Byker | L. Parker Stephenson Photographs, New York, NY 

2012 Captured in Amber | Laterna Magica, Helsinki, Finland 

L’instant capturé | Carrê d’Art Nimês and Studio Prisme, Alés, France 

2011 Writing in the Sand | Pohjanmaan Valokuvakeskus, Lapua, Finland K.H Renlund’s Museum, Kokkola, Finland 

2009 Byker Revisited | Side Gallery, Newcastle, UK 

2003 The Coal Coast | Baltic, The Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, UK 

2000 Writing in the Sand | Side Gallery, Newcastle, UK National Film Theatre, London, UK Museum of Photography of Moderna Museet Stockholm, Sweden 

1997 Writing in the Sand | Mediawave International Festival of Visual Arts, Győr, Hungary 

1994 My Finnish Roots | Side Gallery, Newcastle, UK (travels regionally) 

1993 Writing in the Sand | Gothenburg International Film Festival, Gothenburg, Sweden Le Festival du Film Britannique de Dinard, Dinard, France Tatranska Galeria, Poprad, Slovakia 

1992 Writing in the Sand | Galleria Nykyaika, Tampere and Finnfoto, Helsinki, Finland 

1991 Writing in the Sand | Side Gallery, Newcastle, UK 

1989 Byker | Ediciones Toldeo, Mexico City, Mexico 

Step by Step | Side Gallery, Newcastle, UK Portfolio Gallery, Edinburgh, UK Pavilion, Leeds, UK 

1985 Byker | Hippolyte, Helsinki, Finland 

Step By Step | Side Gallery, Newcastle, UK (travels nationally) 

1984 Step By Step | Ffotogallery, Cardiff, Wales 

1983 Byker | Side Gallery, Newcastle, UK 

Byker | The Royal Festival Hall, London, UK 

1981 Hoppings | Side Gallery, Newcastle, UK (travels regionally) 

1980 Byker | The Peking Art Gallery, Bejing, China (tours The People’s Republic of China) 

1979 Byker | Municipal Theatre of Kronigen, Netherlands 

1974 Photographs by Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen, The Northern Arts & Northern Gasboard Fellow in Creative Photography ‘72 - ‘74 | Bede Gallery, Jarrow, UK 

1971 Newcastle and Byker in Camera | Bede Gallery in Jarrow, UK (travels regionally) 

GROUP EXHIBITIONS 

2019-2020 Home Sweet Home 1970-2018: The British Home, A Political History | Les Rencontres de la Photographie, Arles, France Institute de la photographie, Lille, France 

2019 Seaside: Photographed | Turner Contemporary, Margate, UK 

A Room for Solace – An Exhibition of Domestic Interior | curated by Alec Soth The Photography Show presented by AIPAD, Pier 94, New York, NY 

2018-2019 Portraits | L. Parker Stephenson Photographs, New York, NY 

2018 Women by Women | BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, UK 

About the North: Imagined Dialogues | Side Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK 

Coast to Coast | L. Parker Stephenson Photographs, New York, NY 

Traces of Coal | L. Parker Stephenson Photographs at The Photography Show, presented by AIPAD, Pier 94, NY 

2017 Recent Acquisitions | Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, New York Public Library, NY 

Photo London | Michael Hoppen Gallery, Somerset House, London, UK 

2016 Childhoods | Side Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

Faces From Places | L. Parker Stephenson Photographs, New York, NY 

2015 For Ever Amber | Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK 

Work Rest and Play, Half a Century of British Photography | Art Gallery, Chengdu, China 

Work Rest and Play, Half a Century of British Photography | Misheng Art Museum, Shanghai, China 

Work Rest and Play, Half a Century of British Photography | OCT-Loft, Shenzhen, China 

2014 The Photography Show (AIPAD) | L. Parker Stephenson Photographs, Park Avenue Armory, New York, 

2013 PGH Photo | UnSmoke Systems Artspace, Pittsburgh, PA 

The Photography Show (AIPAD) | L. Parker Stephenson Photographs, Park Avenue Armory, New York, NY 

Country Matters | James Hyman Gallery, London, UK 

London Art Fair: Photo 50 | Business Design Centre, Islington, UK 

2012 A Tad Bit Strange and Somewhat Surreal: Photographs from the ‘60s and ‘70s | L. Parker Stephenson Photographs, New York, NY 

The Photography Show (AIPAD) Park Avenue Armory, New York, NY 

2011 Noorderlicht Photo Festival “Metropolis” Groningen, Netherlands 

2006 Making History | Tate Liverpool, Liverpool, UK 

2005 Coastal | Side Gallery, Newcastle, UK 

River: Documenting the Tyne | Side Gallery, Newcastle, UK 

2003 The Fleeting Moment Between Photography and Cinema | Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Turin, Italy 

2002-2005 Coalfield Stories | Photofusion, London, UK Side Gallery, Newcastle, UK DLI Museum, Durham, UK Mac, The Centre for Birmingham, UK 

2000 Coalfield Stories, New British Photo Realism | Niedersächsischen Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek in Göttingen, Germany 

Amber 1969-2001 | Centro de Cultura Antiguo Instituto at Gijón, Spain 

1997-2000 Puiden kansa, part of Juuret Ja Siivet, Roots and Wings | Hämeenlinnan Taidemuseo, Finland (travels to major Finnish museums) 

1992 Kolme siirtolaiskuvaajaa Pohjoinen Valokuvakeskus, Oulu, Finland 

1982 Ten Contemporary British Photographers | Creative Photography Laboratory, MIT, Cambridge, MA The Light Factory, Charlotte, NC 

1981 North Tyneside Survey | Side Gallery, Newcastle, UK 

1979 Quayside | Side Gallery, Newcastle, UK (travels regionally) 

1978 Beaches | Side Gallery, Newcastle, UK 

1977 Documents in the North East | Side Gallery, Newcastle, UK 

1974 Photographs of the North East | Serpentine Summer Show 3, Serpentine Gallery, London, UK 

SELECTED FILM SCREENINGS 

2018 Song for Billy | Tampere International Short Film Festival, Finland 

2017 Song For Billy | Side Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne 

Song For Billy | Hamburg International Short Film Festival, Germany 

Keeping Time | Krakow Photomonth Festival, Krakow, Poland 

2012 Byker | Le Bal, Paris, France 

The Writing in the Sand | San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, CA Goethe Institut, Washington, DC 

2010 The Writing in the Sand | PhotoFilm, Tate Modern, London, UK 

2009 The Writing in the Sand | Quand La Photo Infiltre Le Cinéma, PhotoFilm, Cinemathèque Quebecoise Montréal, Canada 

2008 The Writing in the Sand | All That Cinema, Viva FotoFilm, Ludwig Museum, Budapest, Hungary 

2007 The Writing in the Sand | Viva Fotofilm, Kino Caligari, Wiesbadener Fototage, Wiesbaden, Germany 

The Writing in the Sand | Viva Fotofilm, Hochschule für Film und Fernsehen, Potsdam-Babelsberg, Germany 

The Writing in the Sand | Fotofilme, Filmhaus Nürnberg, Germany 

2006 The Writing in the Sand | Fotofilme, Kino Arsenal Berlin, in cooperation with the Museum of Photography Berlin (European Month of Photography), Berlin, Germany Filmmuseum, Frankfurt am Main, Germany Metropolis Kinematek, Hamburg, Germany Academy of Media Art Cologne and Dokumentarfilminitiave NRW, Cologne, Germany 

2000 The Writing in the Sand | The National Film Theatre, London, UK as part of Amber Forever International Film Tour (supported by the British Council) “Cycle de films: Le documentaire britannique”, Centre Pompidou, Paris, France 

1997 The Writing In The Sand | Mediawave International Festival of Visual Arts, Gyor, Hungary Collectif Image Photofestival, Geneva, Switzerland 

1995 Byker and Letters to Katja | Celebrating International Film Collectives, Margaret Mead Film Festival, American Museum of Natural History, New York, NY, USA 

1994 Letters to Katja and The Writing In The Sand | Toured by the British Council in Christchurch and Auckland, New Zealand 

BIBLIOGRAPHY 

2019 Williams, Val and Shepherdson, Karen, Seaside: Photographed. Thames & Hudson 

2018 Warner, Marigold, British Journal of Photography, June 2018 

Grieve, Michael, Interview, British Journal of Photography, February 2018 

2017 Konttinen, Sirkka-Liisa, In the Picture, Tate Etc., Spring 2017 

2016 Whetstone, David, Photos of Byker one of the first attractions in Tate Modern’s new building, Chronicle Live, June 2016 

Sooke, Alastair, What to see in the New Tate, The Telegraph 

Wilson, Siona, A Pavilion of One’s Own, Artforum, February 2016 

Brydon, Al, “Endframe: David with daughters, 2008 by Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen,” On Landscape 

2015 AmberSide. For Ever Amber. UK: Pressision, Leeds 

2009 Konttinen, Sirkka-Liisa. Byker Revisited. UK: Northumbria Press 

2003 Konttinen, Sirkka-Liisa. The Coal Coast. UK: Amberside 

2000 Konttinen, Sirkka-Liisa. Writing in the Sand. UK: Dewi Lewis/Amberside 

Hiekkaan kirioitettu. Finland: Kustannus Pohjoinen / Amberside 

Skrivet I sanden. Sweden: Barbro Schultz Verlag / Amberside 

Écrit dans le sable. France: Barbro Schultz / Amberside 

1989 Konttinen, Sirkka-Liisa. Step by Step. UK: Bloodaxe Books in association with Amberside 

1988 Konttinen, Sirkka-Liisa. Byker. Newcastle upon Tyne: BloodAxe/Amberside (second edition) 

1985 Konttinen, Sirkka-Liisa. Byker. Newcastle upon Tyne: BloodAxe Books 

1983 Konttinen, Sirkka-Liisa. Byker. UK: Jonathan Cape 

PUBLIC COLLECTIONS 

Finnish Museum of Photography, Helsinki, Finland Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX 

National Gallery, Washington, DC New York Public Library, New York, NY Tate Modern, London, UK AmberSide Trust Collection, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK 

FILMS 

2017 Song for Billy, Amber films (17 mins) 

2009 Today I’m With You, Amber film (54 mins) 

1994 Letters to Katja, Amber Film (53 mins) 

1991 The Writing in the Sand, Amber film (43 mins) 

1988 Keeping Time, Amber film (57 mins) 

1983 Byker, Amber film (53 mins) 

FILM AWARDS 

Byker 

1985 The Grand Prix, Tampere International Short Film Festival, Finland 

1985 Premio Documental, Festival Internacional De Cinema De Troia, Portugal 

1984 The International Critics Prize and the Special Prize of the City of Leipzig, 

International Film Festival of Leipzig, Germany 

The Writing in the Sand 

1992 Le Prix du Documentaire Européan, Cinéma Du Réel, Paris, France 

1992 Grand Prix, The City of Melbourne Award for Best Film, Australia 

1991 The Environment Award of Northern Electric Arts Awards, UK