• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 7624


    19 November 2008, London, King Street

  • Lot 52

    ISMO HÖLTTÖ (b.1940 Finnish)

    Father and son, The Summer Service, Oulu, 1966

    Price Realised  


    ISMO HÖLTTÖ (b.1940 Finnish)
    Father and son, The Summer Service, Oulu, 1966
    gelatin silver print
    signed and titled in pencil, credit and exhibition stamp on verso
    15¼ x 11¾in. (38.7 x 29.8cm.)

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    The present lot is one of only four vintage prints in this size; two are held in the collection of The Finnish Museum of Photography and one is in a private collection, Helsinki. Three smaller prints, each measuring 21.5 x 17.1cm., are held in a private collection, Helsinki.

    This image was taken during the Oulu, Finland Summer Service of the Laestadian movement. A revival movement most prevalent in Nordic countries and North America, it is a branch of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland. Laestadians study the teachings of Christian theologian Martin Luther and Swedish botanist and evangelist Lars Levi Laestadius.

    Special Notice

    No VAT will be charged on the hammer price, but VAT at 15% will be added to the buyer's premium which is invoiced on a VAT inclusive basis.
    Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.

    Pre-Lot Text

    This and the following three photographs were taken by Ismo Hölttö, a goldsmith by trade, who began taking images of his countrymen at the age of 22. For nine prolific years (1962-1971), his Rolleiflex camera accompanied him on lunch breaks, weekends and holidays as Hölttö travelled throughout Helsinki and the Finnish countryside, shooting unpretentiously casual and sensitively nuanced portraits. At the age of 31, he retired from both professional goldsmithing and amateur portraiture, spending nearly 30 years as a commercial photographer until his partial retirement in 2000.

    Though largely unknown outside Finland until his landmark publication People in the Lead Role -- Photographs of Finns in 1991, Hölttö's powerful portraits have long been renowned across Finland for their honest and graceful style. Marked by a 'deep and genuine humanity', these images embody the spirit of a nation on the threshold of inevitable change that altered the face of many countries throughout the 19th and 20th centuries: post-war melancholia and sorrowful nostalgia at the loss of agrarian lifestyle, tempered with the optimistic hope of a people transitioning to an urban society. In depicting the lives of his fellow Finns, Hölttö captured the essence of an evolution that resonated far beyond the borders of his own nation.

    In the foreword to People in the Lead Role, Erkki Pirtola writes, 'Looking at the work of Ismo Hölttö means making a journey into the heartland of the Finnish soul...[His] photographs contain a truth that will be carried on through different periods and styles. And in decades or even centuries to come, it will tell a tale of a bygone way of life which, without the wonderful power of photographs to witness reality, would only be known by objects it has left behind.' (pp.9-11) Hölttö's portraits speak of change and transition: the story of an era written on the faces of the people who lived it.



    Hölttö, People in the Lead Role: Photographs of Finns, Self-published, 1991, p.178 (fig.1).


    Buenos Aires, XXII Salon Internacional de Arte Fotografico, 1967.