The HCAS Salon: Following Encounters

May 17th, 2023, at 5pm, at the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies – with HCAS Art Fellow Mark Aitken and special guest Jaakko Heikkilä

The Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies (HCAS) welcomes the public to the HCAS Salon – a series of conversations that explore the collaboration between scholarly and artistic work. The events are hosted by HCAS fellows, alumni, and their guests, and they offer engaging talks, creative performances, and lively conversation.

The HCAS Salon: Following Encounters

The photographer Diane Arbus stated, ‘every difference is a likeness’. The act of taking or making a photograph with someone may be the result of intense, brief relationships between those behind and in front of the camera. There’s an interplay of curiosity and trust, producing a photo that says much about the time, thoughts and feelings you shared but also sometimes longer history and memory. All of this can pass from a fleeting expression in someone’s eyes caught in a split second by the camera shutter. A moment like that and the resulting photo can defy explanation. As Barthes said, ‘a photograph is a certificate of presence’. The photographer might see themselves in the person they portray – their likeness in someone else’s difference – born from a peculiar but special intimacy. And when all’s said and done, you both look at the photo and wonder, how did that happen?

Join HCAS Kone Arts Fellow Mark Aitken and special guest Jaakko Heikkilä at the HCAS Salon, as they discuss their approaches to photography and what follows their encounters.

The event is free and open to the public. Welcome!

Mark Aitken short bio

Mark Aitken is an artist and academic working with film, photography, writing and radio. Mark collaborates with people to produce emotionally resonant works. Working across different mediums over many years offers a body of work that is unified yet diverse and at home in cinemas, television, galleries, installations, bookshops and on radio.

Currently supported by the Finnish Cultural Foundation, Mark is undertaking arts research in Lapland. He is also a Post-Doctorate Arts Fellow (supported by Kone Foundation) at the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies until August 2023. New photographic, sound and film works about interactive relationships to the natural environment in Finland will be produced – ultimately in book form.

Mark’s award-winning films include 'Dead when I got here' about a Mexican psychiatric hospital run by its own patients; 'Forest of Crocodiles' about a fearful white South African rural community; 'Until when you die' traces a Vietnamese refugee’s journey home and 'This was Forever' is about the loss of a community allotment in London. Mark has also facilitated over fifty films with students.

Mark’s photo installation 'Sanctum Ephemeral' and book about a community losing their homes won the UK National Open Art 2017, Portrait of Britain 2017 and was published in national press, magazines and exhibited in group shows in London. Glasgow and a solo show in Catalonia.

Teaching film practice since 1990, Mark currently lectures at Central St Martins, London. Mark produced radio on London’s Resonance fm for 15 years and at Dublab, Barcelona for three years.

Jaakko Heikkilä short bio

Jaakko Heikkilä, born in Kemi in 1956, has been described as an artist, a conversationalist and wanderer, a timeless drifter who likes meeting people and depicting them with empathy and respectful warmth.

He graduated as an Engineer from the University of Oulu in 1983 and was a researcher at the Academy of Finland until the end of 1989. Since 1990 he has been an independent photographic artist.

Almost by chance, Heikkilä’s themes have settled on minority people and populations, those who are outsiders in one way or another as well as those caught under the wheels of change: the Armenians in Armenia and the diaspora, the Pomors of the shores of the White Sea in Russia, the Vlach people of Serbia, the Karelians of Finland and Russia, the black population of Harlem in New York, the new public houses community on the Island of Itaparica in Brazil, the people of Havana Centro in Havana. His photographs often contain nostalgia for a lost world as well as warm humour.

He has had private and group exhibitions in most European countries, the USA and South America and the Venice Biennale in 2005. His previous solo exhibition "Philosophy of Wealth" opened in April last year at the Finnish National Museum. Following this, he published his tenth photo book.

He was awarded the Barents cultural grant in 2017, the state prize for photography in 2007 and the Lapland art prize in 1993.


May 17th, 2023, at 5pm


Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies (HCAS)
Fabianinkatu 24, 3rd floor Common Room
University of Helsinki Helsinki, Finland